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.

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Be of One Mind and Heart

Sunday, September 28

Ron Harmon

Ron Harmon

By Ron Harmon, Council of Twelve Apostles

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

—Philippians 2:1–5 NRSV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New House, New Chapter

Thursday, September 11

9-11By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA

He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

—Luke 14:12–14 NRSV

What time is it, I wondered? A time of old age might describe my answer—or it might be time for a fresh start. I realize it is up to me to choose how I view this interlude in my life. It gives me something to think about.

I have lived through many interesting seasons, and I value each one. Once my husband and I put down roots, we stayed. We lived in one house 40 years, and raised our family there. Then I moved into another house for 10 years.

With each move I faced the challenge of sorting trash from treasure. We lived modestly, and tried to practice good stewardship. Still, the inventory grew beyond my need. So I enlisted the help of friends, family, and even a few strangers and shared useful items with them. I set my space in order and settled in for the last time, I thought.

To my astonishment two major events happened to me. My call to the office of evangelist came first. Then my son suggested we gather our financial resources and build a modest cottage next to his home. I moved in, and my colleague evangelists and I are planning a house blessing service as soon as possible.

God enabled me to prepare this sacred space for God’s children. I will invite the weary to stop by and rest with God for a while. It will be a place of solitude and prayer. Together we will recognize that God is holy and worthy of our worship and devotion. How can I help but offer the place where I live to those who need affirmation, love, and peace.

What time is it? It is time to write a new chapter of life with zeal and anticipation of continuing my journey with our beloved Savior.

Prayer for Peace Create in us, O God, hospitality for the stranger. Make of us sanctuaries of Christ’s peace.

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 plan a feast for hungry souls.

 

Bikers Are Cool!

Wednesday, September 3

Photo by Art Smith

Photo by Art Smith

By Art Smith, Council of Twelve Apostles

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

An unexpected ministry has ridden into town in Santiago, Chile. Not long ago, during a trip to Santiago, Gustavo, our church planter there, was selling his motorcycle to raise a little extra cash while citing the dangers inherent in riding.

Of course, now he’s riding again.

Society’s judgment plagues bikers in many places. But when that first biker showed up, welcomed by Community of Christ in Santiago, it wasn’t long until others followed. There is so much power in open-minded acceptance of others—in celebrating the Worth of All Persons.

Community of Christ now sponsors its own biker club. Members call themselves the Centuriones de Cristo. They wear a round church seal patch on the front of their leather jackets and their own distinct patch on their backs. Those shields and swords remind us of Paul’s challenge to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6). There’s nothing violent about these bikers.

On the Saturday of my visit, our biker club had banded with other similar-minded clubs to help a single mom and her kids. Everyone rode in a caravan to the town where this family lived, about 100 kilometers outside Santiago. They brought a new bed, new shoes, and food.

As their worth had been affirmed, so did the bikers affirm the worth of another. In the spirit of love and peace, the world is coming to know them.

Prayer for Peace God of bikers and those not known by the world, open our minds and hearts. Help us see past the leather jackets, the piercings, the tattoos, or anything that may seem different from us. May we see and know people as you see and know them.

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 welcome the unfamiliar and discover Christ anew.

Community Expands and the World Seems Smaller

Monday, August 25

8-25a

Australians and Grover’s – IYF 2014

By Janné Grover of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!

—Psalm 117 NRSV

Five young men from Australia became part of our family during their stay for the International Youth Forum (IYF) at the Temple and Auditorium in Independence, Missouri, this July. Brodey, Tarron, Zac, Sam, and Tim were delightful and generous guests who shared with us a glimpse into the similarities and differences of our cultures. They never did get used to vehicles and traffic being on the opposite side of the road from which they are accustomed.

On the first day of IYF, I walked into the Temple Sanctuary for the Prayer for Peace, and was immersed in the energy of nearly 1,000 young people from around the world. I was overwhelmed by the hope and potential these young people embody. What an amazing experience! My personal challenge is to live beyond the feeling of that moment. I want to be awake and ready to respond. I want to risk something new to be a blessing of God’s love and peace in the world. The great news is I’m not doing this alone. I am on this journey with my church family. We are on this journey with brothers and sisters around the world. Our community is ever expanding, and the world continues to get just a little smaller.

On the last night of their stay, we shared in a gathering with yet more Australians, as well as a group of young women from Tahiti. We learned how to play cricket and touch “footie,” and enjoyed some traditional Tahitian dancing. I marveled at the event that brought this particular group of young people, leaders, and host families together from different cultures to enjoy an evening of fun and companionship—transcending language and culture.

Events such as IYF and World Conference highlight the rich blessings of a diverse community. I feel at home among brothers and sisters from around the world, and as my sense of community is greatly expanded, the world grows smaller. I capture a glimpse of God’s vision for all of creation…each person finding voice and belonging in a community of oneness and equality.

How do we extend those experiences beyond church events happening every three or four years?

Becoming a radically invitational and welcoming community goes beyond our hospitality to those who walk through our doors. We have a message of hope and acceptance that has the potential to transform lives, communities, and the world. We do not keep it to ourselves; it is what “Christ’s Mission, Our Mission” is all about.

Prayer for Peace God of the wide world, God of the small world, bless us with hospitality inclusive of all. Expand our realm of concern; bring your finest details into focus. Help us gather your world into a community of peace.

Spiritual Practice: The International Community Find (or imagine) a globe or map of the world. Look at all the nations and find a country other than your own. Notice the geographic distance between your homeland and this one. Picture a person living there. Pray for this person. Sense God’s love connecting you just as the oceans connect the continents. Thank God for the spiritual connection you have with all of God’s people around the globe. Ask a blessing on the church as a community sharing Christ’s peace, drawing all into the family of God.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will expand my community to the world and get to know its people personally.

A Child Cared

Monday, August 11

8-11By Earl Burns of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us…for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

—1 John 4:18–21 NRSV

Many years ago, before the US Civil Rights movement, our family attended a reunion (family camp). Early in the week, my youngest daughter’s preschool teacher talked about this scripture and how God “first loved us.” Our daughter, Lisa, asked, “You mean he first loved us, the white people, and then loved the black and other people?”

The teacher quickly responded, “No. God loves all people equally.” My daughter then asked, “Then why aren’t there any black people here at this reunion?” She asked a valid question!

The next day to everyone’s surprise, Brother Blue, an African-American, and his family showed up for the day. During the early morning prayer service, I shared my daughter’s concerns from the day before. Brother Blue said he had not planned to say anything that morning, but because of what I said, he felt he must. He shared a moving testimony.

After the service, he told us he wanted to meet Lisa. My wife held Lisa in her arms and told her to watch the door for a surprise. When Brother Blue walked into the room, Lisa’s eyes shined with joy. He walked up to her and said he wanted to meet the little girl who cared if he was here or not. They talked for a while before he left.

I thank God that conditions have changed. I embrace the Enduring Principles of Unity in Diversity and Worth of All Persons. May our communities continue to reflect God’s diversity. We still have a long way to go. But with observant and loving people like Lisa—and with God’s love as our guide—I have faith in a diverse community of peace.

Prayer for Peace Loving God, we thank you for giving us such a great reason to love our brothers and sisters. Thank you for loving us—all of us—first.

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 invite the person excluded.

Faces

Tuesday, August 5

8-5By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, USA

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

—Psalm 121:1–2 NRSV

Ministry lives among and within people. It involves sharing, loving, and striving with people in need, who are willing to listen and have us in their lives. This life is like a woodpile in the backyard that needs attention. What part of this woodpile—this life—is our mission?

This life includes worshipful moments enhanced by natural happenings. Perhaps it is seeing something new or rare in creation. Or, it may be watching the face of a baby or an older person. Perhaps it is hearing birdsong and ocean roar. Or pondering the glory of a tree so tall you cannot see its top. This life is also about falling down and getting up; grieving and laughing; sobbing, serving, and quietly sitting, reflecting, praying.

This life includes enthusiastic expressions of creative ability that bring tears to the eyes, and wonder to the heart! Look at the many faces, the billions of faces of God. Look at the hurt expressions and the malnourished, fly-covered, hopeless faces—those God faces. Look at the young adult, eyes alive with hope and potential. Look at the aged, with lined and seamed faces that have seen the years, and who wear their stories on their faces. Pause and listen as the faces “tell” their stories.

No two faces are the same color, the same shade, the same texture. See them…love them. See God in the sun and the moon and in all on whom they shine. Fall on your knees in prayerful exclamation saying, “Holy, holy, holy! Holy are the faces of the Lord.”

Prayer for Peace Creator God, open our eyes that we may glimpse you as we look into the faces of our brothers and sisters. Open our ears that we may hear you as we listen to their stories. Open our hearts that we may feel your pain as we dry their tears. Open our arms to embrace them and know your peace.

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 see faces anew.

Start Up a Conversation…

Monday, June 30

6-30By Sergei Bogolepov of Novosibirsk, Russia

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus…

—Romans 15:5 NRSV

While waiting in a Novosibirsk shopping mall, I sat next to a middle-aged man with a black beard. He was deeply involved in playing chess on his iPod. Sweat on his forehead showed a high level of concentration. He was struggling with tactical issues.

I am not a chess master, but I have a decent first sport category in blitz chess, and I am good with tactics. I offered some help, and we solved the puzzle together in a couple of minutes. It was good opportunity to start a conversation about this challenging game, and I recommended to Oleg some Internet sites where he could polish tactical skills.

I asked him what he did for a living. He is an ordained minister in the Russian Orthodox Church, which is well known to me. I introduced myself as an ordained minister of Community of Christ. Father Oleg immediately became defensive.

Official Russian orthodoxy states that any church besides Russian Orthodox is a totalitarian sect. As far as I know, orthodoxy forbids priests to have contacts with “heretics.” Father Oleg felt caught between his personal freedom to talk to me and obedience to church authorities.

Looking for common ground, I talked to Oleg about my theology studies. My interest was in Hesychastic spiritual practices that were deeply rooted in traditions, such as his. We talked about Bishop Gregory Palamas, who warned Hesychastic monks that besides doing spiritual practices, they also should do works of charity.

Father Oleg shared with me that they have a special day to commemorate Bishop Gregory, and he invited me to visit his church.

The game of chess, Gregory Palamas, and doing charity work were all good subjects to establish rapport with Father Oleg. This also allowed me to share about Community of Christ. Father Oleg listened attentively and told me that although he is not happy that I belong to a “foreign sect,” the information was interesting, and he would like to stay in contact with me.

We shared our phone numbers and agreed to pray for each other. I hope the conversation continues.

Prayer for Peace Universal God, help us find common ground to keep the conversation going. Help us find opportunities to affirm the worth of persons and share Christ’s peace.

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. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers to love.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will find common ground to include all people in the conversation.

Hidden under the Surface

Wednesday, June 18

6-18By Joyce Bullion of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, USA

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace…

—Zechariah 8:16

Some people love to snorkel in the calm and serene waters of the Pacific Ocean. There are many exciting and colorful fish, eels, turtles, and reefs to see. There are also many dangers—sharks, other threatening fish, and sharp, coral reefs. Snorkeling for the first time often brings surprises at finding a new world under the surface.

The first time I snorkeled was at Hanauma Bay on Oahu in Hawaii. I lay on a raft, stuck my head in the water, and oohed and awed. I feared the unknown—afraid the fish might bite me.

Most lives are similar in that each person has a hidden world under the surface. We cannot judge people by their outer appearances and know everything about them. Each soul has its personal and challenging experiences. Whether a person is rich and famous, poor and unknown, or of a different culture or skin color, each is created in the image of our Creator. We all have a spirit within us that makes us worthy of love and acceptance.

When we step forward in faith instead of fear, we can get off our safe rafts. We can partner with our Creator. We find the hidden beauty in the world and learn to live in peace and harmony. We uncover hidden opportunities to serve as God would have us serve.

Prayer for Peace God of our surface and God of our depths, reveal to us hidden needs that we might share Christ’s peace in dark places.

Spiritual Practice: Healing for Broken Spirits Begin with quiet prayer. Ask God to help you detect some “sore places” in the body of Christ and in God’s creation. Become aware of people who feel separated, wounded, or left out. Reflect on or write a short journal entry of healing words to at least one person who comes to mind. Ask God for words that will touch this person’s broken spirit like healing ointment. Keep this person in your heart and prayers today and act on any ideas that come to bring blessing and wholeness.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will venture out from safety and risk myself for Christ’s mission.

Filled with the Spirit

Sunday, June 8

11-16By Art Smith, Council of Twelve Apostles

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

—Acts 2:4 NRSV

I praise God and give thanks for those who, as the Spirit has given them ability, have begun to speak in other languages. I’m grateful to have grown up in the national capital region of Canada, an officially bilingual country. It was normal for people to speak at least the two official languages.

My assignment to Latin America in 2004 made it necessary and natural to begin to learn Spanish and Portuguese. I needed the ability to communicate with my brothers and sisters in that field. It has been such a blessing in my life to communicate directly with people of different cultures, countries, and language groups. I am always happy when World Service Corps candidates send applications that show preparation through study of another language.

Several Spanish-speaking, young-adult volunteers have blessed us with their ministry in the Central and South America Mission Field. I always encourage young Community of Christ members to consider studying languages in school. The Holy Spirit uses this gift for sharing gospel blessings between cultures.

Prayer for Peace God of many lands and people, help us expand our understanding of and ministry to lands far and near. May we embrace offerings of ministry from our neighbors nearby and far away. Help us see other languages as opportunities for learning and not as barriers. Help us speak Christ’s language of peace.

Spiritual Practice: The International Community Find (or imagine) a globe or map of the world. Look at all the nations and find a country other than your own. Notice the geographic distance between your homeland and this one. Picture a person living there. Pray for this person. Sense God’s love connecting you just as the oceans connect the continents. Thank God for the spiritual connection you have with all of God’s people around the globe. Ask a blessing on the church as a community sharing Christ’s peace, drawing all into the family of God.

Peace Covenant Today, God, in another language I will learn to say, “Le aprecio y su cultura también” (I appreciate you and your culture).