I Am Down, I Am Up, I Am… (a day in a journey with Alzheimer’s Disease)

Friday, October 17

10-17Sara Parkin of Midlands, Michigan, USA

Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom, invites all people to come and receive divine peace in the midst of the difficult questions and struggles of life. Follow Christ in the way that leads to God’s peace and discover the blessings of all of the dimensions of salvation.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:2a

When we got to the church I didn’t tell anyone I was not well. Instead I would say to the people, “Hi, how are you?” They would say, “I am OK,” or “Doing well.” They would ask me how I am again, and I said, “Doing all right.”

I lied.

I walked away and looked for a place to be alone as I started to cry. I found the sanctuary and sat on a step under the picture of Jesus and cried with him. Why am I crying? I want to be here. I want to go home. I needed to go home. I did not know why or how I was sick. I did not know why I was crying, and I just wanted to go home.

I was on my knees, asking God what was going on with me. Was it my Alzheimer’s disease playing with my brain? I was at the church for a class. I had all the books I needed for the class. I didn’t read them, could not understand so many words. When I wanted to talk I couldn’t get my brain to go faster to get words out of my mouth. It was easier to not talk, yet I wanted to share with the group.

Did I want to cry? Did I want to go home? NO! I want to be normal just like everyone else. On Monday, I stopped at the Alzheimer’s Association, and I talked to Laura. I shared with her what happened about my crying—told her I broke down. She called it a break out, meaning that you have been holding back, and it has to come out.

I need to stand up and to speak up for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I am very happy when I am up and about. I feel really good doing things in my life, and I hope to help others when I can. Today I know that God is always with us. Yesterday, I did not know that. I might not know that again tomorrow. I thank God for my moments of presence.

Prayer for Peace Ever-present God, we search for peace, we search for shalom, and we find them embodied in Christ. Thank you for the gift of your Son.

Spiritual Practice: Shaping into Wholeness Hold (or imagine holding) a glass cup, bowl, or vase. Explore its shape, texture, and color. Let the container symbolize your life as it is being formed. Write on strips of paper (or in your journal) the aspects of your life that are not yet just and whole. Place the strips in the glass container and hold it in your hands. Pray a prayer of confession and petition, asking God to continue to breathe in and on you, shaping you into a just and compassionate person.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will invite someone whose spirit might be down to share feelings with me. I will listen with patience and love.

One Minute, Please, across the World

Thursday, September 18

9-18By Donna Boyd of Independence, Missouri, USA

God is calling for a prophetic community to emerge, drawn from the nations of the world, that is characterized by uncommon devotion to the compassion and peace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Through divine grace and wisdom, this faith community has been given abundant gifts, resources, and opportunities to equip it to become such a people. Chief among these is the power of community in Christ expressed locally in distinctive fashions while upholding a unity of vision, foundational beliefs, and mission throughout the world.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:11a

With moving day drawing close, I found myself thinking, “It takes only a minute” each time I considered packing an item. Finally, I realized that I had put off so much work that I had put myself under great pressure to be ready on time.

Looking back on God’s work entrusted to our hands in this place, I recall several jobs I intended to do. Because they would “take only a minute,” I had put them off, and they were yet undone. We cannot know the full results of these minutes. Too often, the opportunity is ours for only a short time, and then it is gone!

We can embrace the mission of Christ in minutes if we each give a few. We need to offer a minute of prayer, reflection, testimony, and active service each day. This Sunday, September 21, is the United Nations International Day of Peace. Peace is only minutes away. If it is to be, it is up to me.

Prayer for Peace Let me be a light, God, a signal on a dark, cold night. Let me be a smile, a handshake, a friend. Let me be an instrument of Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Peace Action Community of Christ is called to ministries of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit. PeacePathways is a church-sponsored website sharing peace and justice ministries, educational materials, ideas, and opportunities. Visit (www.peace-pathways.org/) and prayerfully discern one ministry that speaks to you or captures your attention. Offer a prayer of blessing on the peace ministry you select. Listen quietly to see if God is calling you to additional responses to this ministry or another ministry of peace, reconciliation, or healing. If you cannot visit the website, offer a prayer of blessing on all peace ministries.

Peace Covenant Let there be peace on Earth, God, and let it begin with…doing the very next task on my list.

Have Mercy

Sunday, September 14

Jane Gardner

Jane Gardner

By Jane Gardner, president of Quorum of High Priests

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

—Matthew 18:21–22 NRSV

What a comforting message: No matter how off track I get, Jesus offers forgiveness. It’s personal and foundational to understanding the extent of God’s mercy and love for me.

But the meaning doesn’t stop there. While we can claim God’s mercy for us, Jesus’ message is much broader. It applies to all of our relationships, especially those within the church. No matter how off track we get with each other, we are to forgive. Wow! Forgive, no matter what?

The phrase “cheap grace” describes a surface approach. It says, “Everything is forgiven—no problem, no worries.” When in reality the hurt and pain are still present; we do not do the real work of forgiving.

Can we be in relation with one another that is genuine and not just superficial? Can we do the hard work of listening and processing with our honest, vulnerable selves? This perspective on the conversation between Peter and Jesus is counter-cultural and uncomfortable.

Listen together to one another, without judgment or predisposition. Do not assume that the answers to matters of conflict have yet been perceived. There is much labor to be done. Reason together in love, and the Spirit of truth will prevail.

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:5c

The next time someone offends or angers me, I’m going to try to go deeper. What is that person’s perspective? What might he or she be feeling? What are my assumptions about the circumstance? Can I protect myself and still be vulnerable and open? Is there a safe place for us to work this through together?

These are difficult questions prompted by the sayings of a Savior who confounded the disciples (and us): God radically forgives and we have to figure out how to authentically show the same mercy to each other.

Prayer for Peace Forgiving God, we feel your grace before we ask. As we forgive one another, we feel your grace growing in our hearts. As we share Christ’s peace, we feel at peace. Thank you.

Spiritual Practice: Healing and Reconciliation Gather a small mound of stones. Meditate on the stones as symbols of differences and destructive acts that continue to separate and wound the human family. Name and anoint each “stone wound” with a drop of water or scented oil. Offer them to God in a prayer for healing and reconciliation.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will walk in another’s shoes to understand that person’s perspective.

Out of the Depths

Friday, September 5

9-5By Vera Entwistle of Eugene, Oregan, USA

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope…

—Psalm 130:1–5 NRSV

Today it seemed so many people made demands on me. Some were pleading, some whining, some demanding…until I wanted to shout, “What about my needs?” As soon as I thought it, these questions came suddenly to mind and left me stunned:

Do you ever feel like that, God? And, where do you go when we do not meet your needs?

As those thoughts resounded through my whole being, I took a deep breath, lifted my eyes toward the sky, and simply said, “Thank you, God, for your patience with me.”

Prayer for Peace Patient God, how can we lament our needs when you have given so much? As we center ourselves in you, take us with you to that place where we can see through your eyes. Set in us that urge to comfort the mourners and share with them the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Time with God Sit quietly and let your breathing become calm and deep. Ask God’s Spirit to rest on you. See or sense the Spirit anointing you in the form of light, a dove, wind, color, or other images that might come. Ask to become aware of God’s love. Listen to the ways in which God wants to flow from your heart as living water. Give thanks that your name is “beloved,” that our name is Community of Christ.

Peace Covenant Today, God, as I ponder the sorrows of the Earth, I will remember that you cry with us.

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/.

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.

A Hug for the Road

Saturday, August 9

8-9By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA

Generously share the invitation, ministries, and sacraments through which people can encounter the Living Christ who heals and reconciles through redemptive relationships in sacred community. The restoring of persons to healthy or righteous relationships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey as a people of faith.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b

Just how does mission begin? For me, it recently began at the dinner table. After church we gathered in the friendship hall for lunch and visiting. I greeted a woman sitting alone, and I set my plate next to hers. Her eyes were red from crying, and she looked sad. I asked, “May I give you a hug?” I asked her if she wanted to talk after lunch. She nodded yes.

Another elder and I took Julie to a quiet room where we could talk. Her first words were “Your hug is the best feeling I’ve had all day.” I quickly gave her another. Julie sobbed out her story to us. She felt helpless as she suffered through life on a meager income.

Her body was thin, and she was still losing weight. She needed medical help but could not afford it. Besides that, she was caring for her grandchildren. When her emotions subsided, the other elder and I promised our support. We told her of our congregation’s well-stocked pantry and a network of agencies that also could help. We assured her our congregation offered community and worship, including the sacraments.

We explained the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick. Julie asked that we present her to the Lord for a blessing of wholeness. The calmness of her spirit and hope in her face testified that she felt God’s healing touch.

At the end of our visit, we promised Julie we would journey with her as long as she wanted us to. We parted with another hug. This opportunity to serve reminds me that even if our deeds seem small, they may be the best ministry that happens all day to a hurting soul. Small deeds can start us on a mission to end suffering.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, help us reach out to people who need the touch of community. Make us watchful and aware of loneliness and need. May we respond to the need 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 look into the eyes of your people, and respond to their tears.

Know the Spirit of Love and Peace

Monday, August 4

8-4By Barbara Kernohan of Richmond, Ontario, Canada

Hear, O my people of the church, I am Jesus Christ of whom you have sung and testified and in whose name you pray. I am the spirit of love and peace which is in the world and yet not known by the world.

—Doctrine and Covenants 157:11

A woman contacted me who was having a hard time forgiving someone who hurt her family. Repeatedly, she relived the nightmare, unable to find relief. She could not get a good night’s sleep. She had trouble eating properly. She was a mess, and it was destroying her life, a life once filled with great compassion and joy.

The bounce in her step was gone, and she held her head low. She was not the person she used to be. Like a boat stranded on the water, her sail held no wind. And, because of her inability to forgive, her sail remained empty. She prayed, yet no relief came into the dark night of her soul.

She contacted me for the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick, for she did feel she was sick. Another elder and I met her at the church. As we walked into the chapel, words came strongly to my mind, “Today you will see my power released.”

At that moment, I felt God releasing the power of the Holy Spirit, not because of what we as elders did or said, but because of God’s compassion. This person, free of burden and pain, was whole again.

God wants all of us to be free of the burden of an unforgiving heart. This freedom is the heart of Christ.

Prayer for Peace Forgiving God, we feel your grace and forgiveness. By the example of your son, teach us to forgive, also. Help us also follow Christ’s example of peace by sharing.

Spiritual Practice: Shaping into Wholeness Hold (or imagine holding) a glass cup, bowl, or vase. Explore its shape, texture, and color. Let the container symbolize your life as it is forming. Write on strips of paper (or in your journal) the observations of what is not yet just and whole in your life. Place the strips in the glass container and hold it in your hands. Pray a prayer of confession and petition, asking God to continue to breathe in and on you, shaping you into a just and compassionate person.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will let go of a hurt and be whole.

Straddling the Divide

Michele McGrath

Michele McGrath

Monday, July 28

By Michele McGrath of Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA

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

—Jeremiah 29:11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Competitive to Contemplative

Friday, July 11

7-11By Michalina Bartlett of Gainesville, Florida, USA

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

—2 Corinthians 5:18–19 NRSV

After bounding from its crouch, the cat streaks into the chase with its gaze intent on the terrified mouse. The teeth of the mouse have a viselike clamp on the cheese. Nothing is more intimidating than the focus of a predator, and nothing more fear-driven than the escape of the hunted. And, between the two, nothing more narrow in vision than this interplay of pursuit and escape.

Myself, I want out of this mad race and into the peaceful contemplation of the Divine. Pondering the image of cat and mouse, I can see how much time I waste in competitive living. In the end, it succeeds in nothing but a selfish result. By being the winner, and perhaps being right—or the loser, and perhaps being wrong—both lose. Both are egoistic and shortsighted.

Why involve ourselves in this struggle at all? Hindered by the blinders a shortsighted goal creates for us, we can’t see anything beyond what is before our faces: the need to control, be right, and win.

I would rather know I am reconciled to God and divine truth. This is a more expansive and creative way to live. I would choose to live without the blinders that ego pursuit and pride create. What would happen then? The more I consider the alternative, the more I see myself choosing Christ’s peace. There are no losers in the pursuit of what matters most. There are only winners in Christ’s mission of evangelism, compassionate ministries, and justice and peacemaking.

Prayer for Peace Reconciling God, we would be with you, not settling into competition with others. Help us form peaceful teams where winning is common—given to each other. Help us develop the ministry of reconciliation.

Spiritual Practice: Healing and Reconciliation Gather a small mound of stones. Meditate on the stones as symbols of differences and destructive acts that continue to separate and wound the human family. Name and anoint each “stone wound” with a drop of water or scented oil. Offer them to God in a prayer for healing and reconciliation.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will play with friends and not keep score.