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!

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My Shepherd, Emily

Monday, September 8

9-8c

Lisa Soignier

By Lisa Soignier of Independence, Missouri, USA

You have put gladness in my heart…I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

—Psalm 4:7–8 NRSV

I was sitting on the front row at church one Sunday morning when my 8-year-old friend, Emily, walked past me to hug a visitor. Not wanting to leave anyone out, she continued down the row until she hugged everyone on our side of the church.

Then, as I bowed my head, she returned to where I was sitting to make sure I received a hug, too. At that moment I felt like the lost sheep, and the shepherd had returned for me! What a joy it was to receive that reassuring hug! I could feel Emily’s love.

I often feel like a lost sheep when facing circumstances over which I have no control. I try to find my own way to handle my problems. After struggling for solutions, I remember I am not alone. My Shepherd comes to me with an even better plan than I could imagine.

My Shepherd comes in many forms—a card in the mail from a friend, an invitation to lunch with colleagues, a visit with my neighbor, or a phone call from my sister. Seek the sheep that need your ministry and the different ways you minister. Christ calls us to be disciples serving in his stead.

Prayer for Peace Tender Shepherd, how can my heart be sad when I know you are near? How can I feel lost when I trust you know where I am? How can I feel left out when I know you will return for me? How can I be afraid when it is you who sings me to sleep and gives me peace?

Spiritual Practice: Listening to Children Sit in your quiet place and center your heart and mind on God’s presence. Spend several minutes asking God to bring into your awareness the names and images of children in your life. You may see their faces or hear their voices as you receive these impressions. Listen deeply to the unique gifts and needs of the children who come to mind. Offer a prayer of blessing for each child and the needs you sense.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will write a note of affirmation and love to a child.

God is Among US

Sunday, September 7

9-7aBy Janné Grover of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

—Matthew 18:20 NRSV

Community is complicated and amazing. It can be a source of great healing and blessing, nurture and support. It also can be a source of tension and angst, hurt feelings and disagreements.

As members of the family of God, we belong to and are responsible for one another. It is true that we often hurt, and are hurt by, those with whom we feel closest. What is amazing about true and sacred community is not the absence of conflict and pain, but how we engage with one another to address and resolve such issues.

If Christ is truly among us, then we find ourselves living the sometimes-difficult disciple practice of shared experiences in community. In Christian community we risk relationships with people who differ from us in many ways. Celebrating and learning from the differences frees us from isolation and individualism to joy and Blessings of Community.

I grew up feeling I had to be perfect. My parents seemed perfect, and the outward appearance of our family seemed perfect. I was imperfect. What I have come to learn is true family community is not about being perfect, but loving one another despite our imperfections.

Such is the case in any community, where two or three gather in the name of Christ. We do not have to put on masks of perfection to be part of community. We need to be vulnerable to grace by being vulnerable to one another and by committing to love one another in and through the reality of true community.

Prayer for Peace Ever-present God, we call for you when we are burdened. Forgive us for not trusting that you already are with us. May we be aware you are near and share the peace of your presence.

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 or other images that might come. Ask to be made aware of God’s love. Listen to the ways in which God wants to flow from your heart.

Peace Covenant Today, God, when I am among community, I will be with you.

What Are You Up To?

Tuesday, September 2

9-2By Dawn Squires and Merna Short of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

—James 3:17 NRSV

Kathie loved going to Grandma’s house. There was one rule for Grandpa’s office. “Don’t touch anything on Grandpa’s desk!” Above the desk hung a painting of an aboriginal elder wearing fierce-looking war paint.

One day Kathie came running up the hallway, crying uncontrollably. Grandmother folded Kathie in her arms, asking what was wrong. “I don’t like that man on the wall,” Kathie sobbed. “He said, ‘Kathleen, what are you up to?’”

It was obvious to Grandma that Kathie was up to touching something on Grandpa’s desk, and the little girl’s conscience was stricken. Grandma smiled as she held her. She was grateful, too, that her grandchild was aware of what we consider a right choice and what we consider wrong.

We also make mistakes in life. Prodded by our conscience we turn to God, who loves us. God, too, wraps us in comforting arms. God sets us free to make the choices according to our response to teachings about Christ’s mission. Maybe we could listen more to the quiet prompting of the Spirit asking us, “What are you up to?”

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, help us reconsider when we start to make a poor choice. Help us weigh the result—who will it help? Who will it hurt? Will it yield good fruit? Prod us with your Spirit, God, and keep us up to peacefulness.

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.

Offer yourself to God, using 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 be up to Christ’s mission.

“Here I Am”

Sunday, August 31

8-31By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. …God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then (God) said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”…Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”

—Exodus 3:2, 4–5, 13–14, NRSV adapted

Entering the Worshiper’s Path at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, one of the first artworks is a three-layered tapestry of the burning bush. The artist, Linda Henke, entitled it, “I Will Be Who I Will Be.” As you would expect, she made it with bright oranges and reds, warm and hot colors overlaying the strong, black silhouette of the bush, which stands firmly, unconsumed by the flame.

Before Linda created this work of art, she came to see the place where it would hang. She immediately took off her shoes in reverence of the place she sensed as holy. She looks back on her work today and shares this:

One of my favorite scripture texts, the Exodus 3 account of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, inspired this design. In a response to Moses’ inquiry about how God wishes to be known, God responds in what typically is translated as “I Am Who I Am.” I, however, prefer the Hebrew translation of “I Will Be Who I Will Be.” For me, the difference between the two is significant and powerful. Humankind will not limit God by its perceptions of who God was, is, or yet shall be. God’s identity will be determined by the endless possibilities of the divine will as it unfolds over time. The quest is to discern how God is seeking to be known in our world.

Shortly after hanging the tapestry at the path’s entrance, a gathering of international leaders held a worship service in the Temple Sanctuary. As the first worshipers entered the path, they responded to the image of the burning bush by spontaneously removing their shoes. They left their shoes at the foot of the path, and everyone who followed that day did the same.

How do we respond when we sense we are in sacred space or on holy ground? When God reveals God’s self to you, will you answer, “Here I am”?

Prayer for Peace God of the mountain, God of the earth at our bare feet, we are ready to know you.

Spiritual Practice: Many Names of God Pray or sing each name several times as you call on the God of many names: Yahweh, Adonai, Jehovah, Yeshua, Sophia, Allah, Alpha, Omega, Abba, I Will Be Who I Will Be.

Peace Covenant Today, Creator, I will walk on your holy Earth with reverence.

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/.

God-size Job…We Need Not Apply

Wednesday, August 27

8-27By Deb Crowley, of Charlotte, Michigan

My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you. …Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge God, and he will make straight your paths.

—Proverbs 3:1–2, 5–6, NRSV adapted

God is God, and we are not. These words from a sermon resonate loudly for me. The job of administrator of close to a hundred congregations is daunting. On good days, there is excitement, camaraderie, and the Holy Spirit, giving insight, energy, and hope.

Other days, there is dealing with conflict, anger, heartbreak, and overwhelmingly heavy burdens. Do you ever have days like that?

A couple of months ago I had a hard day. Bickering members in a few congregations saddened me. Financial woes that go with every charitable organization depressed me. I cried to God in frustration because no easy answers could relieve the pain and suffering. “Why, God? What can I possibly do to make a difference? People are too stubborn. They’ll never get along, and it’s just too hard! I want to quit before the dark hole swallows me!”

At my lowest point, God spoke. Not in a verbal voice, but through a message in my mind that was clear and concise. “All you have to do is love them. I’ve got everything else under control!”

I could feel the weight fall from my shoulders as God reminded me that God is God, and I am not.

There is no way I can carry the weight alone. No way to solve the problems of the world. No way to stop the bickering over insignificant concerns that stem from fear or a sense of loss. It is a God-size job!

It is my job to administrate justly and ethically. It is my Christ-like joy to love unconditionally and pastor with tenderness and patience. It is also my job to trust God as directed in Proverbs. God is God, and we are not. Bring on the challenges! With God anything is possible, and there are plenty of good days for those who faithfully rely on the Lord!

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, help us lay our burdens at your feet. Help us trust your love when life challenges us. We rely on you to help us share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Praying for Leadership of the Church An important spiritual practice for disciples is praying for members of the body of Christ, particularly those who carry leadership responsibilities. Ask God to guide your awareness of persons who lead the community of faith in congregations, mission centers, and the World Church. Pray for God’s outpouring of grace on each servant leader who comes to mind.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will be aware of your comforting presence when I face a challenge.

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.

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.

Hear Us, Lord

Sunday, August 17

8-17By Steve Jones, presiding bishop

Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” …Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

—Matthew 15:22, 28 NRSV

As I write this testimony, the Presiding Bishopric has just finished its fourth spiritual-formation retreat.

Each year for the last four years the Bishopric, under the leadership of a spiritual director, has gone on retreat. We go to deepen our connection to God, one another, and to our calling as servants of Jesus Christ. On these retreats we have moments of deep reflection and community that reenergize us.

We engage in personal reflection, prayer, silence, and shared worship. We seek to know God hears us as we call from the deepest places of our souls. We seek God just as the woman called to Jesus to heal her daughter. When the retreat is over, I remember why we do this each year—we feel God has heard us.

May the Lord continue to hear each of us as we call in faith.

Prayer for Peace Listening God, hear our longing to serve you well. Hear our heart’s longing to be the hands of Jesus, serving in his stead; to be the peace of Jesus in a noisy, violent world.

Spiritual Practice: Examining God’s Call to Me and to All Reflect on God’s call in your life. Begin by prayerfully asking to recall particular moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come.

When has God seemed most real in your life? How and when has God called you to use your energies and gifts? When have you felt God’s love in your life? When have you felt disconnected or resistant to God’s call? How do your gifts and callings connect with the call of God you notice in your family, friends, congregation, or community?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will patiently, quietly listen to understand your will for me.