A Memory

Tuesday, November 11

11-11By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, USA

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.

—Ecclesiastes 3:1–2, 4

Eventually, each of us will leave this Earth and the familiar form we know. Our link to the living will dissolve—at least for a time, as far as we know. My relationship with my mother was uniquely close. Or, as Margaret Meade famously said, “You are unique, just like everyone else.” I loved Mom dearly and she loved me unconditionally.

Every time my wife and I went to see Mom at the senior home, we walked down a long, dull hallway. Each time we left we walked the same path. As I said good-bye and I hugged my mother to me, I would always wonder if this were the last time I would hold her—“Will I see her alive again, or is this the final good-bye?”

After she died, we carried some of her belongings down that long hallway. With each trip, we took away some small part of my mother’s life. And, sometime before that experience, I had indeed hugged her for the last time. I did not know it at the time.

So between her six children, we divided her possessions. Each took a token of her life. No one felt short-changed; we felt only that our time with her was too short. One day you are here, and all the trappings of life that you hold are here with you. Then the sun goes down, leaving tokens and memories as testimony. They perhaps say, “There was a person here for a season—a child of God, loving and loved, now with God, at peace.”

Prayer for Peace Compassionate God, we thank you for the people in our lives. May we cherish them each day of their lives. May we share their stories and the peace of Jesus Christ.

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. Imagine God watching you grow in your mother’s womb. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)?

Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has of you and every child. 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 are you invited 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 hug a loved one, not knowing what tomorrow brings.

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The Leaves Keep Falling

Tuesday, October 28

Autumn LeavesBy Paul McCain of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

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

—Romans 14:19 NRSV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commanded to Love

Sunday, October 26

Ron Harmon

Ron Harmon

By Ron Harmon, Council of Twelve Apostles

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

—Matthew 22:37–39 NRSV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace Covenant

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

Circle of Justice

Friday, October 3

10-3By Ramona Seeley of Leeton, Missouri, USA

“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. …And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

—Matthew 12:18, 21 NRSV

I was teaching in the Kansas City, Missouri, School District when the law passed to integrate the schools. I was teaching at Bristol School, which was inside the Independence, Missouri, city limits. All the students were Caucasian.

The first week after the busing order came, we got a bomb threat and had to evacuate the school. We loaded the children on the buses and sent them home. After a thorough investigation, police decided it was safe to continue, and school reassembled the next day. We were sorry the children had experienced a racist message of hatred. We realized we had much work to do in the school and in the community.

Gradually tensions eased, and we held an assembly. The teachers, black and white, held hands and surrounded the auditorium as we sang, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” It was a moving experience, and we felt we had succeeded in responding to hate with justice and love.

We burn our bridges before us,
when we judge without yet knowing.

—Lu Mountenay

Prayer for Peace Creator of all, help us see each one of your creatures as beloved. Help us proclaim justice and peace to all.

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 see another’s heart before I see the color of skin.

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.

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.

Who Grew?

Tuesday, September 9

Gary McDonald

Gary McDonald

By Gary McDonald of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

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

—Romans 14:19 NRSV

Whenever A.C. took to the podium to preach, I groaned. He was boring to this 10-year-old. I tried to get something from his sermons, but, as a youngster, I never could. Instead, I would count the minutes until they were over. His sermons were consistently tedious.

I didn’t know that A.C. was a convert to the community and was slowly growing in his discipleship. Years later, I recall him saying his few experiences with church had been during childhood, when an aunt took him on special occasions. This meant he had no mentors or teachers to emulate or question. He was learning on the job.

I grew up and matured while A.C. continued improving on his sermons. I remember a Sunday when I was listening to him. How intelligent and interesting he was!

I wondered when the change took place. Later I realized it had happened only after years of practice. I soon realized I had changed only after years of listening.

In remembrance of his valuable friendship and service, I can say only that I am glad God gives us room to grow.

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, forgive us when we expect perfection from one another. We are all flawed. Thank you for loving us as we are and as we may become. Help us support and encourage one another.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring God’s Call to Others Reflect on God’s call in your life. Quietly reflect on the moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation to expand your gifts. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come. When have you experienced God through the calling and gifts of others? How do your gifts connect with the call of God you notice in your family, friends, congregation, or community?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will remember of me and my friends that we’re not perfect, and that’s OK. That’s perfect!

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

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.

Bless the Differences between Us

Monday, September 1

9-1By Dianna Vanderkarr of Charlotte, Michigan, USA

Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—in peace because they trust in you.

—Isaiah 26:3 NRSV

As I drove to work the other day I noticed the fall colors and their brilliance. The trees displayed different colors and shapes. I sensed the trees as people.

They are beautiful and perfect until we start cutting at them to make them fit our properties and roads. A tree in the city often is severely pruned to fit around a utility line, leaving a gaping hole in its beautiful canopy of leaves.

How many people do we try to prune to make them fit our property line—our comfort zone? How often do we try to change their shape for our own idea of political correctness and peace?

Forgive us, God, and open our eyes again to see the Worth of All Persons whom you created as different, colorful, and brilliant.

It does not put my soul to rest
to reveal another’s sin.
Nor does it quiet my conscience—
that raging fire within
when I point out another’s fault
it takes none away from me.
It is only through compassion
we set each other free.

—Peggy Michael

 Prayer for Peace Creator God, help us trust in you to form your people the way you would have them be. Help us employ only compassion, knowing we, ourselves, are not perfect. Help us be at peace and find unity with the differences we meet each day.

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 not only will accept differences, but embrace them.