A House Becomes a Home

Monday, November 10

11-10By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA

“Humble yourselves, and continue in prayer to God; cry to God when you are in your fields, and over all your flocks; cry to God in your houses, and over all your household, morning, midday, and evening. …And when you do not cry to the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer to God continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.”

—Alma 16:219, 222, adapted

A severe storm badly damaged my house. I had to move out and put it on the market “as is.” A year later it still had not sold. We made ready to tear the house down and sell the lot. But prayers and a phone call changed events. It was from a woman who bought old houses and made them habitable again. She told me an interesting story.

As she drove down my street, she saw the vacant house, but it did not capture her imagination. She continued, “A powerful Spirit pulled my car into the driveway. Nothing like that ever had happened to me before.” The potential buyer stepped inside the unlocked house. Somehow, her feeling of attraction and the house’s appearance did not match.

She saw that beneath the damage skilled handiwork displayed itself throughout the house. She determined that without major changes, she could renovate it and make it ready for resale. The caller went on, “What struck me, though, was the Spirit that I felt inside the home. I felt comfortable there.”

I shared some of the house’s history with her—that my husband and I dedicated the house to God. We raised our children and grandchildren there. It also served as a safe playground for two generations of neighboring children. In the quiet moments that followed she came to understand.

Two weeks later we met and completed the transaction. We felt the settlement was fair to both of us. Surely the Lord had sent this kind stranger to bless me. I have faith that God continues to bless her and those who find sanctuary in their new home.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, we have faith in your listening ear. When we forget to pray, nudge us with your gentle elbow. When we remember, enfold us in your peaceful arms.

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 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.

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 listen and respond morning, midday, and evening.

Be Ready

Sunday, November 9

WaveBy Peggy Young of Independence, Missouri, USA

But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” …Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

—Matthew 25:6, 13 NRSV

My idea of a great day at the beach is when the waves are five to six feet high. No, I don’t surf. I just love to ride the waves. I learned from my father on the trips my family took to the eastern shore when we lived in Maryland as I was growing up.

He taught me how to get beyond the breakers by working my way out through the smaller waves. But most importantly, he taught me that if a big wave was about to break on top of me, the thing to do was be ready and dive straight into it. Above all, never take your eyes off the ocean.

A friend from Russia accompanied us on our last trip to Hawaii. We wanted her to experience as much of the ocean as possible. We had many beach days but only two great ones, and my friend wanted to ride the waves with me. She ventured through the smaller waves, hanging a little behind. But every time I started toward the large breakers, she refused to continue.

I said to her, “Come on. You just have to be ready for the wave and dive into it. Stay with me and trust me—you’ll be OK.” But she would not come with me to the big waves. I had an exhilarating time riding up to the crest of one wave after another while Elena went back to sit on the beach.

I thought later of how following God is a lot like anticipating and getting ready for the waves. God calls us into the deep water to ride the big waves. When we trust in that divine presence and stay close, it is an exhilarating ride.

Sometimes we take our attention off God. We try to go our own way instead of where the Holy Spirit is leading us. Sometimes a wave breaks right on top of us, dashing us under and rolling us against the sand. That is not the time for us to give up and go sit on the beach. That’s just a reminder to catch our breath, keep our eyes on God, and be ready to plunge in again.

Pay attention when God says, “Here is the Christ. Come out to meet him!” When we let God help us get beyond the breakers and accept the challenge of the big waves, life becomes a journey of purpose and fulfillment.

Prayer for Peace Holy Spirit, open our hearts to be ready for your call. Open our minds to be ready for Christ’s mission. Prepare us to respond with love and peace.

Spiritual Practice: Breathing with the Ocean Sit or lie in a relaxed posture. Pay attention to your breathing. Let the rhythm become calm and even. Imagine sitting or lying on a warm, sandy beach with ocean waves rolling in and out near your feet. Listen to the waves as they “exhale” and “inhale.” Begin to breathe in time with the waves.

Become aware of the ocean as the presence of God washing onto the shore to touch your body and spirit. With each breath, receive what the ocean of God brings you. Let go of what is carried into the sea of God’s presence. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving. Ask how you can share God’s healing and peace today.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will be ready to dive into Christ’s mission.

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.

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.

When We Fall and When We Fly

Tuesday, October 21

10-21By Elva Eliason of Vancouver, Washington, USA

…live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

—Ephesians 5:2 NRSV

It is cold outside. I am not in a rush to go out and meet the challenges of the day. My bedroom window shades open from the top, allowing me to see the sky and the upper branches of the tall trees. I thank God for that view each morning, and this morning I am in awe of the clouds.

They look like a thick featherbed quilted into puffy squares, shaded in whites and grays. However, the darker grays might mean snow, so maybe I shouldn’t be pleased with their beauty…and yet I am.

Then I see a hummingbird dancing over the top of the trees. Settling on the uppermost branch of a tall tree, he hasn’t enough weight to bend the tender twig. He sits there…and sits there, unusually still for a hummingbird. I begin to worry. If he sits much longer, his tiny body will freeze.

Suddenly he plummets straight down, and I gasp. It is just as I feared—his wings have frozen. Unable to fly, he has fallen to the ground.

I rush to the window, but he is behind the neighbor’s fence. I can’t help. I watch for a long time, and then I see him flutter up to one of the lower branches. He sits there and then hovers above the branch for a moment or two, struggling to beat his wings. He settles down on the branch once more, rises again, and again, each time his wings beating stronger.

Then he quickly zooms over the top of the tree, hovering for a moment, exulting in the rebirth of his strength. Then he rises toward the gray clouds.

Sometimes our spirits shrink to the size of a tiny hummingbird. Sometimes our spirits shudder and freeze. But then…an act of love, a memory of what it was like to feel the Spirit’s warm breath beneath our wings…creates a spark. And the spark creates light and warmth within. And strength returns to our soul.

We need to be vulnerable…not to judgment, but to love. May we not linger too long in that part of our soul that is cold and dark. For love is with us—when we fall, and when we fly!

Prayer for Peace Creator God, hover above and around us. Breathe your healing Spirit into us. Give us strength to lift ourselves from cold, dark places and bask in your light. Give us strength to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Breathing God’s Compassion Light a candle and sit quietly, reflecting on the fire and light of God. Pay attention to your breathing and let it become calmer and deeper as you focus on God’s presence. Ask God to breathe in you. Now imagine breathing out God’s compassion and grace each time you breathe out. Pray to have the spirit of Christ radiate from your life like the gentle flame of a candle.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will remember an act of love done for me, to lift my spirit. I will act with love to lift the spirit of another.

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.

*#?!#<@#!…I’m Shocked!

Wednesday, October 15

10-15By E.J. Chappelle of Rosharon, Texas, USA

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

—Matthew 11:29–30 NRSV

I taught a co-worker to troubleshoot problems in an old compressor. I pointed out the relay switches, fuses, and starters inside the control panel that could cause problems.

“Reset all these,” I told him, “and be very careful never to touch one of these…*#?!#<@#!!” I did not finish the sentence as I somehow touched a hot wire and made a funny noise while receiving a 277-volt shock. He thought it was hilarious, and soon we were laughing at my potentially fatal error.

Jesus didn’t like hypocrites, and I usually don’t think of myself as one. But what more glaring example of hypocrisy than to lay a finger on a wire you just warned another not to touch—never to touch! It was a humbling experience.

How many times have I let slip other subtle acts of hypocrisy like poor language, needless rushing around excluding what matters most, or bad habits for which I admonish others? Will I even notice people laughing at my advice as easily as they’re entertained by my bad examples? Do I expect people to do as I say and not as I do?

Pharisees and scribes didn’t think of themselves as hypocrites either, but Jesus noticed. The flocks God had entrusted to them must have seen it, too. The jolt from that compressor and the laughter following remind me to be more aware of my actions. I want to be a good and humble example to those the Lord sends to learn from me.

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, help us nurture a Christ-like, humble nature in ourselves. Help us inspire a Christ-like peace in all.

Spiritual Practice: Teacher-learner The first disciples of Jesus followed to hear his words, to be taught, to learn a new way of living, to practice what they learned in daily life. Prayerfully consider your role as a teacher-learner, disciple-apprentice; a people cultivator in Community of Christ. In your journal write the names of several persons you discern as teachers or mentors and several you feel called to nurture and encourage in specific ways. Ask God’s blessing on you and your congregation as a community of learners.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will teach and preach only what I practice.

A Tight Vessel

Tuesday, October 14

10-14By Cindy L. Korf of North Platte, Nebraska, USA

And when they were buried in the deep, there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like a dish, and also they were tight like the ark of Noah.

—Ether 3:8

In the story of the Jaredites, God directs them to cross the ocean to a choice land. I would have thought, “This will be a pleasant trip—with peaceful ocean breezes and smooth waters.” On the contrary, God told the brother of Jared to build vessels “tight as a dish” because there would be waves that would cover and swallow the vessels.

I often think that if I’m traveling the path God directed me to travel, it should be “easy sailing,” with smooth waters and pleasant ocean breezes. But, like the Jaredites, the journey is not always smooth. At times, the journey fills with turbulent seas, violent storms, and dark nights of the soul. The miracle of it, though, is that God provided direction for the Jaredites to have the means—tight vessels—for a safe, though not necessarily easy, journey.

Even for us today, God knows there are difficulties and provides the means for us to have a safe journey through the presence of the Holy Spirit, who never leaves us.

Prayer for Peace Nurturing God, assure us of your presence when our souls are dark. Bring us through the rough waters to the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Psalm Writing The psalms are prayers of honesty and trust. The psalmist trusts God’s presence in times of fear and failure, joy and plenty, growth and change. Write a short psalm-prayer expressing to God the truth about your physical, emotional, and spiritual state. What are your deepest feelings, longings, and needs? What prayer of praise, intercession, or petition flows from you as you consider your life and the life of God’s world?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will set aside expectations that life will be easy. I will prepare for the journey and have faith in your care.

E-mail Subject: “Stay between the Lines”

Thursday, October 9

10-9By Paul McCain of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

—Matthew 7:13–14 NRSV

“Stay between the lines.” This phrase, used by my brother to close a recent e-mail message, made me pause. We have shared many life stories about cars and roads. In the day before driver’s education, when parents or siblings were the teachers, I taught him to drive. (This is not something I would recommend, in retrospect.)

While learning, he did not always “stay between the lines.” One memorable occasion ended with my foot atop his on the brake pedal, just a few feet short of a guardrail.

My mind goes to many stories about him or me not staying on the pavement. However, in the e-mail, I am sure he meant something more philosophical. I think he was saying something like, “Stay out of trouble” (meaning, the kind you get into when you wander off the road or path).

I thought of the scripture about not taking the broad way (leading to destruction or trouble) and staying on the narrow path. There were times when I stepped off the metaphorical path, also. I have this mental image of a cartoon frame, with me driving a car titled “my life.” I am heading for some precipice off the road titled “the way,” with God’s foot on top of mine on the brake pedal.

I have a favorite poem called “The Ambulance Down in the Valley” credited to Joseph Malins (1895). It is about folks divided in how to solve a problem of people falling off a cliff. One group argues for helping people after they fall. The second group wants to build a fence to prevent people from falling in the first place. With the Lord’s help, we may make Responsible Choices to prevent our fall.

Prayer for Peace Path-maker, help us focus on the way of Jesus Christ when we face choices. Help us make transformative choices for peace.

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 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.

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 Covenants Today, God, I will search for the narrow gate.

Do Not Die with an Empty In-box

Monday, October 6

10-6By Vera Entwistle of Eugene, Oregan, USA

When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.

—Psalm 146:4–7 NRSV

Most of my working life, the in-box on my desk overflowed with tasks. My mother wrote me a letter and commented on a photo of my office that I had sent to her.

“I noticed your overflowing IN basket on your desk,” she wrote. “Just remember there will still be stuff in your in-box when you are dead.”

Her comment made me think about the pattern of my days and how often I had missed sharing with a friend because the in-box demanded my attention. I loved my job, but it deeply immersed me in obligation. I missed some special moments because of it.

Since retirement and settling into a new home, my priorities have changed. I have found a saner way of spending my days. If friends ask me to go to the movies or meet them for coffee, I just go.

Now I am free to see that for me the ideal day would be somewhere between my workaholic attitude and giving attention to family, friends, and my soul. Finding balance in a life that includes Christ is my mission.

Prayer for Peace Eternal Hope, help us take time to immerse ourselves in you, as well as our work. Help us spend our time sharing Christ’s peace.

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 be 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, I will remember that time spent with you is time well-spent.