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.

Hide and Seek

Thursday, October 16

10-16By Karen Tousley Hutchinson of Loveland, Colorado, 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

From where will my help come? God surrounds us and meets us through our senses. Psalm 72:6 says “May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass…” Who has smelled a rainy day after mowing the grass? What a gift to think of God that way—sending comfort through scent!

It is all encompassing. It surrounds us, and we cannot escape it. It fills our being, and so does God! What a wonderful thought. Even when I want to run away and hide, I am pulled back into God’s presence. I cannot escape.

I was struggling through a troubled year that I would rather have avoided. I did not want God’s presence in my life to be nearly as encompassing as it was. I saw it as a demand, rather than the gift it was. I kept trying to run away. People I loved died. There were surgeries and heart attacks. It seemed that overwhelming sorrows continually surrounded me.

I had only to lift my eyes to the hills and smell the mown grass after the rain. The scent kept pulling me back into God’s presence.

There are still times I want to run away from God’s love, but I have found there is no place to hide. Praise God for the comfort and the persistence of divine Presence.

Prayer for Peace Ever-present God, you seek us when we try to hide. You embrace us when we try to evade you. When we would flee, you are present. When we would escape, the fragrances of your Earth remind us of your presence. Help us realize when we are vulnerable to you, we are free.

Spiritual Practice: Fragrance Remember or find a way to experience directly a fragrance you enjoy (fresh flowers, candle, fresh bread, pine trees, sea air, spices). Ask God to help you see a situation for which you sense God’s call to bring harmony and healing. Pray that you might spread the peace of Christ as fragrantly and generously as the aroma you now experience.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will keep my senses keen to experience your Presence in creation.

Children of God

Friday, October 10

10-10By Evelyn Richardson of Nauvoo, Illinois, USA

“And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

—3 Nephi 5:56

He was 3 years old. He had a twin brother, but the doctor diagnosed him alone with leukemia. He started his ordeal with weekly chemotherapy treatments and seemed in good spirits despite all he would face over the next three years.

After his first chemo session, the doctors let him go home and sleep in his own bed. The next day he asked to go to the end of the driveway to get the mail, as if that were a privilege and wonderful adventure. His mother loaded him into his little red wagon and pulled him to the mailbox.

On the way back, he asked his mother to stop for a moment. When she did, he sat in his wagon and looked all around in silence—taking it in as if seeing it for the first time. He finally spoke and said, “Mommy isn’t everything beautiful?”

His words tugged at her heart as she answered, “Yes, honey. Everything sure is beautiful.”

A 3-year-old child, facing the fight of his life, made her realize the wonder of God’s creation. Let us take time to enjoy life to its fullest while we can. Let us recognize the sacredness of God’s creation around us, as if seeing it for the first time.

Fragile blue of robin’s egg—
the blue that says, look, don’t touch
Watery blue of grandma’s eyes—
the blue that says, I’d look if I could

                                      —Lu Mountenay

Prayer for Peace Compassionate God, when our vision is cloudy, clear our mind to see the love you have for your creation. Clear away jaded judgments that block our childlike wonder. May we be intentional in seeing and appreciative of what we see. May we be intentional as we share Christ’s 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. If you feel led, you also may want to write a note or card and give a message of affirmation and love to each child.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will see your world anew on my way to the mailbox.

God – End of Rope – God

Wednesday, October 8

10-8By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

Nevertheless, I have heard your prayers when you have cried out to me, and I have been with you in the places where you occupy. I am aware of your desires to serve me and my assurance is that as you go forth, your offerings of faith and service are acceptable to me.

—Doctrine and Covenants 157:16b

One day I found myself struggling. I didn’t have enough time, energy, or money to finish a project in which I had invested myself. I imagined how I wanted it to look, and it just wasn’t happening. In my frustration…

I gave up.

I threw in the towel.

I came to the end of my rope.

I literally closed the door on the project, so I wouldn’t have to see the “failure.” I went to the patio and sat down to think. I took a deep breath and asked myself, “What went wrong?” I was trying to fill a charitable need, so why wasn’t God helping me?

Then one phrase returned to haunt me, “I came to the end of my rope.” I could imagine myself, going through the steps of the project as if I were holding onto a rope. My arms crossed over each other as I pulled myself from task to task, becoming tired. The rope was taut, as if something were pulling at each end. I didn’t feel like I was making any progress. I was just going through the motions. “Where are you, God?”

I gave one final pull, and the end of the rope came loose in my hand. I envisioned a message: “I am here.” I realized the firm hold on the rope was not resistance, but support. God kept the rope, and me, from falling to the floor.

Well then, I thought, what about the other end of the rope? I pulled it loose, and I found another message, “I have been with you since the beginning.”

I took another deep breath. I no longer asked what I did wrong. Instead, I asked what parts of the project I did right. I recognized God in these parts. I saw my own ego in the other parts. Back to the drawing board—this time, with faith in the One who finds my service acceptable.

Prayer for Peace Ever-present God, we know you are with us from the beginning. Help us be aware and to appreciate divine intersections. May we devote our time to sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Examining God’s Call to Me and to All 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 stop to notice and appreciate your presence before I embark on Christ’s mission.

Heard No Bells, but Saw a Star

Thursday, October 2

10-2By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, USA

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

—Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV

Peace on Earth and goodwill is not just for Christmas. I often ponder on the third verse of the hymn, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The poet bows his head in despair and says, “There is no peace on earth…For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth…” Then Henry Longfellow continues by writing how the bells rang out, and the sound restored his hope.

I didn’t hear any bells, but something else happened to me on a predawn fall morning. I saw a star. The temperature on our patio was 22 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s cold for my part of the world. An inch-deep snowfall was beginning to melt on the valley floor. When I went out to get the newspaper, daylight was two hours away. I found the newspaper and turned to go back to the house—and there it was. That star—such a star!

But wait a minute. I had seen many stars; yet something was different about this star. It hung low and bright in the southeast sky. Immediately the thought struck me that maybe the Bethlehem star of the Christmas story looked like the star I saw.

It held me in awe, wonder, and—yes, I must say it—it held me in the bonds of hope. I did not hear any bells, but I did see a star. For me the result was the same as it must have been for Henry Longfellow on hearing the bells.

I did some research and found the “star” was not a star at all. It was the planet, Venus. But it didn’t make any difference. It was a light in the sky—a light for my life. It was clear and bright, and it told a story.

Maybe, just maybe, if we focus, we could see the hope of the star with our weak and unaided eyes. Maybe we could hear the “bells of Christmas Day” or see the star of Bethlehem, and by doing so, we could hear the bells of freedom and justice. We could see the light of hope and peace in a dark and confusing time.

Prayer for Peace Bring us a quiet moment, God, so we may hear the faint bells of justice. Bring us a clear sky, that we might see a glimmer of hope in a dark world. Bring us opportunities to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Hope Close your mind to troubling thoughts from the past by placing them in God’s generous hands and letting them go. Let God speak to your fearful heart. Think of your hope for the future—open windows in your mind through which you can see compassionate actions. Reflect on the hope of the Christ child. What is your part in the reason for that hope? Rejoice in the Hope of the world.

Peace Covenant Tonight, God, I will search for stars and ponder on the hope and peace of Christ.

One Minute, Please, across the World

Thursday, September 18

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

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

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:11a

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Can I Do for You Today, God?

Tuesday, August 26

BibleBy Wendy Ballard of Forster, New South Wales, Australia

…do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

—Psalm 34:14 NRSV

Recently I had the privilege of conducting the memorial service of a 95-year-old disciple, with emphasis on the word disciple because she was. She was also faithful, prayerful, scripturally literate, and an inspiration to me. Whenever I visited her, we would pray. First I prayed. She would follow, thanking and praising God for life, her many blessings, and then—wonder of wonders—for me.

She shared with me her favorite scriptures, her significant hymns, her beloved people, and her love of writing and reading poetry. Here are a few lines from one of her poems, which I quoted at her celebration service:

I love my God, and God loves me, too,
without my faith what would I do?
God is my strength and my refuge, too,
God’s response is amazing and true.

I can remember thinking, she is 95 years old, and in life and near death, she still finds ways to proclaim her love of and total faith and trust in the Living God. I remember her morning prayer: “Dear God, what can I do for you today?” Wow! What if we prayed a prayer like that each day?

God relies on people like you and me to engage in mission. God needs us to share our experience of the Living Christ. Let us, like my friend, begin our day by asking God what we can do for Christ’s mission. Let us also listen for a response and then act. This opportunity might be the one waiting for our response.

Prayer for Peace Great Listener, we thank you for the mentors in our lives. Help us listen to them and by doing so come closer to you. May we then encourage others to listen for ways to share peace.

Spiritual Practice: Praying with a Partner Pray with a partner if possible, or imagine Christ sitting with you. The heart is a center of compassion and spiritual connection. Stand or sit across from your partner with hands open and palms up. Invite your partner to place his or her hands, palms down, on your hands. Close your eyes and be aware of the connection between your heart and your partner’s heart. What needs, feelings, or longings do you sense? Invite God’s presence to flow into you, and move from your heart to the heart of your partner. Feel or see God’s healing light and love flowing between your hearts. After silent prayer, thank God and your partner. Say, “Amen.” (You also may pray this prayer by envisioning a particular person across from you.)

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will do what you want me to do.

Discovery on the Path

Wednesday, August 20

Photo By Bruce Crockett

Photo By Bruce Crockett

By Pat Marmoy of Independence, Missouri, USA

The temple shall be dedicated to the pursuit of peace. It shall be for reconciliation and for healing of the spirit.

—Doctrine and Covenants 156:5a

I needed to deepen my spiritual life, so I signed up for a spiritual-formation class at the Temple. The labyrinth was one of the disciplines I explored.

The Chartres labyrinth has always been the most powerful path design for me. It reflects life much like I experience it. It is not straightforward or predictable. It does not always give one a feeling of being in control. It has many changes in direction, and it often brings you back to a place you thought you had long ago finished with. Is it trying to tell us something?

Bruce Crocket suggested it would be helpful to enter the labyrinth with a question. I entered the labyrinth with this question: “What blocks me from fully committing to and practicing spiritual disciplines?”

The labyrinth confronts me with various truths about life. It helps me be more honest with myself. For instance, when I found myself approaching the center I was thinking of finally being where I wanted to be. Then I found myself back at the edge. I questioned whether I was willing to be closer to God, or whether I fear what that demands of me. Am I honest about what I want in my soul? At different points in the labyrinth, I found myself questioning whether I have issues of trust, dedication, and control. I discovered I need to let go of being right.

U-turns became pivotal points, and I stopped to reflect how I make decisions. I reflected on my responses to others and with the community as a whole as I passed people going slower than I or coming from the other direction.

The labyrinth ministers to me not so much by supplying answers but by posing more questions—questions that help form me by healing my spirit. What a blessing it is to be so gently but powerfully confronted, as we search for our part in Christ’s mission.

Prayer for Peace Tender Shepherd, lead us back to you. Heal that which separates us from you and grant us your peaceful Spirit.

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

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will make U-turns if necessary to ensure further reflection on what matters most.

The Blue Camas of Idaho

Saturday, August 16

8-16By Joann Condit of Phoenix, Arizona, USA

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us…that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross…

—Ephesians 2:14–16 NRSV

My father’s childhood home was a small ranch house on the north side of Camas Prairie, where it backs up to the long range of the Soldier Mountains. His strong shell belied his soft heart, touched by beauty wherever he looked. The blue Camassia that blossoms in the early spring was his favorite flower.

Camas Prairie was once a bountiful place for the Bannock Indians. They came to Southern Idaho each year to catch salmon in the Snake River and to dig the bulbs of the camas plant. The bulbs taste much like sweet potato and were a nutritious staple after the long winter. The Native Americans dried, pounded, and ground the bulbs into meal that stored well. It provided bread for the hungry times. As a boy, Dad witnessed this yearly migration of the Bannocks.

When I was a child, the rich bounty of the camas nearly disappeared, plowed under by wheat farmers who flocked to that rich, black soil. Once, the composite of bright blue blossoms spread like lakes on the prairie floor. Then the lakes became puddles, where the flowers rarely grew. Here and there, in marshy places along creek beds, wherever the melted snow provides moisture, some camas continue to flower, telling a story of a migrating people who left when the flowers dwindled.

The bounty of God fed the early Bannocks for hundreds of years. The dominant need of another people plowed under this bounty. Do we put our own needs first? Can we break down the dividing walls and become a new humanity that shares?

Prayer for Peace Creator God, may we honor the sacredness of creation as we make choices that affect places on the Earth and the people who rely on them. Help us be aware of how damaging our footprints can be. Help us reconcile and make peace with those we have injured.

Spiritual Practice: Healing for Broken Spirits Begin with quiet prayer. Ask God to help you discern some “sore places” in the body of Christ and in God’s creation. Become aware of a people who feel separated, wounded, or left out. Ask God for words that will touch these people’s broken spirits like healing ointment. Keep them in your heart and prayers today, and act on any ideas that come to bring blessing and wholeness.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will become aware of historical hurts where I may foster reconciliation.

Amid the Traffic

Wednesday, July 30

7-30By Jannis Urena of Puyallup, Washington, USA

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

—Philippians 4:9 NRSV

Several ponds are in our neighborhood. Toward the end of summer we see the geese fly south in classic V-formation. Some stop in these miniature lakes to nest and raise chicks.

Last week I was amused to see a bright-yellow sports car ahead of me come to a full stop in the road. Oncoming traffic stopped, as well. We all waited as a mother goose authoritatively guided her fluffy babies from one side of the road to the other.

All the horsepower and sleek creativity of Detroit—brought to a standstill by the power of our small feathered friends.

Somehow we tend to forget that God often invites us to stop and “smell the roses” or watch the goslings. How wondrous is the diversity of God’s creation—our very human souls draw us to observe Creation with awe. Even amid the traffic.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, thank you for being present through all the seasons of our lives—the heartaches and the joys, the deeps and the shallows, the ebb and flow, times of conflict and peace. Help us share those peaceful times and be at home with you.

Spiritual Practice: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation Choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following practices or create your own. Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude while looking and listening for God in all things. Write or pray a psalm of praise for the Earth’s beauty or offer a prayer of healing and blessing for its wounds.

Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, or fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will see your creation’s beauty.