Gone but not Forgotten

Friday, September 19

9-19By Cindy Thomas of Independence, Missouri, USA

But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant peace.

—Psalm 37:11, NRSV adapted

I went back several times over the years to visit the place of my youth. The farmhouse, outbuildings, trees, roads, pastures, and hills brought vivid memories.

Returning to my home caused me to reflect on where I had come from and how that place shaped who I am as an adult. I have not returned in the last few years because the farmhouse, trees, and buildings are now gone.

I realize the importance of that place is not in the physical buildings and landscape. The people, the friends, the community made the lasting changes within me. I know, too, the church buildings, reunion grounds, and people that nourished my spiritual growth throughout the years may no longer exist, but the friendships made leave a lasting and peaceful presence in my life.

Friendship is a two-way street,
sharing without measure
and often proving costly.
In this bond, lives are interwoven,
giving and accepting.
Humbly we try to meet
these exacting needs.
Even so, I beg of you—
May I call you friend?

                                                                                           —Peggy Michael

Prayer for Peace God of the past, present, and future, we thank you for the people in our lives. As they have blessed us in days gone by, may we bless others with friendship and by sharing Christ’s peace.

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

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will remember those who helped shape me. I will consider who may need my help on their spiritual journey.

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Fishing for Friends

Friday, July 18

7-18By Campers

Do not neglect the smallest among you, for even the least of these are treasures in God’s sight. Receive the giftedness and energy of children and youth, listening to understand their questions and their wisdom. Respond to their need to be loved and nurtured as they grow.

—Doctrine and Covenants161:4a

This was my first year at children’s camp. Our theme was “Fishing for Friends.” Camp was a blessing to me. Daddy was my counselor. There were campers in my cabin that I already knew, and some new friends. Our cabin name was “the bears.”

I learned what a good swimmer I am. I paddled a kayak by myself. I slid down a mud slide. I liked the water games at the new pool. I liked when we made cane fishing poles. I really liked KP. I don’t know why they call it “Kitchen Police,” because it’s really fun! I can’t wait for next year because I can’t wait to do more fun things, make new friends, and be with Jesus.

—Parker Bradford
Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

I love camp! I went to camp every year since my first year of children’s camp, and this year I went to junior camp. It’s my favorite part about summer. Camp is so peaceful, but also it’s fun. One of my favorite parts of camp is campfire. All the songs are fun, and I love doing the motions that go with the songs.

At the end of campfire we start to do more serious and peaceful songs. After that we do a prayer. I think campfire is the time at camp that I’m most connected with God.

—Addy Simpson
Independence, Missouri, USA

Prayer for Peace My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing that God cannot do. My God is so good, so peaceful, so gentle, there’s nothing that God cannot do.

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 set aside what I think I know about you, and open myself, like a child, to discover more.

 

 

Can’t Wait for Camp

Saturday, July 5

7-5By Campers

Beloved children of the Restoration, your continuing faith adventure with God has been divinely led, eventful, challenging, and sometimes surprising to you. By the grace of God, you are poised to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for the church.

—Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a

I loved going to camp this year. And many times I felt blessed. But the time I felt the most blessed was at campfire. All of us kids would sit together on a big blanket. We sang, prayed, and just talked. There I felt the true meaning of God—love, friendship, and the joy of being with others you care about. That experience was amazing every time. I won’t forget those nights, and I can’t wait for camp next year!

Grace Keenan,
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

One of my favorite parts of camp was before our morning worship at the tabernacle. They would play some vacation Bible school songs, and everybody stood, danced around, and had fun with the fast-beat songs. Then they would play a slower song, and we would join hands in several long rows, and we just sang to God and each other, feeling blessed to be there.

That’s when I felt most blessed to have this great experience, to make new friends, and worship together. Camp was awesome, and I can’t wait until camp next year. I am so glad our congregation has a fund for campers so everyone can come who wants to. Thank you to those who are generous to the campership fund.

—Sarah Keenan,
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Prayer for Peace Creator God, thank you for the stars that surround our campfires. Thank you for grass and sand to sit on. Thank you for our new friends and those we meet again each summer. Thank you for the peace between us. Help us share Christ’s peace with the world.

Spiritual Practice: All That Lives Take a walk and find a tree where you can sit (or imagine walking and sitting beneath a tree). Lean against the tree and feel the texture of the bark. Listen to the wind move through the leaves. Sit quietly and sense God’s presence flowing through the tree and all creation. Offer a prayer of gratitude for your connection to all that lives. Ask for grace to identify and carry out one small act of justice or healing that creates greater wholeness for the plants, animals, trees, waters, air, and land that are part of the community of creation.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will write a letter to an old friend from camp or a friend from another experience.

 

 

A Dude and a Donkey: Flipping the Idea of Power and Peace

Tuesday, June 17

Zac and friend

Zac and friend

By Zac Harmon–McLaughlin of Wickliffe, Ohio, USA

…do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

—Psalm 34:14 NRSV

I had an hour of spiritual-practice time dedicated to reflection and connection with the Divine. I was in the Rocky Mountains. A racing creek was right outside, snow-capped mountains waited for my eyes, and birds flew back and forth. Other blessings were waiting to reveal themselves.

I walked to a bridge over a raging creek and sat down. I communed with God. I reflected on what had been a terrific weekend—a retreat experience at Peaceful Valley Dude Ranch.

As I was letting my heart dwell in God, flowing with the breeze and the water, I felt prompted to cross the bridge. In a small pasture I found a donkey gently grazing, having some dinner. As soon as the donkey heard me, we made eye contact.

Now, I am a city boy. I don’t know how donkeys behave, what they like, or how to touch them. But I thought I would give it a go. I was in the middle of connecting with the Divine. I thought, “What a wonderful opportunity to experience God through this creature!” So I made my way closer, and he made his way closer to me.

We met, and I stuck out my hand in the same way you do when you meet a dog.

The donkey rubbed against my hand as if to tell me to start rubbing his nose and head. I began to pet him and, I swear, he smiled at me. He opened his big, old mouth and bared his teeth in a grin. I felt a connection to this creature. His coat was coarse and dirty. As I patted his neck and back, dust flew into the air. His owner had mowed his meadow clean. I picked from the plentiful grass outside the fence. As soon as I leaned forward with a handful of greens and dandelions he smiled again.

Here is why this is perfect for the peace blog or Daily Bread. The donkey is the lowliest of creatures in the equestrian world. It is not a beautiful stallion or a giant Clydesdale. It isn’t exotic or fast. Yet, the donkey is what Jesus rode into Jerusalem—what Jesus used to flip this world’s understanding of power and status into love and peace.

The donkey for Jesus is an ambassador for peace. I was at peace with an animal that doesn’t hold honor and glory or even the tourism appeal of a zebra. I was with God, having a peaceful agape meal.

Prayer for Peace Thank you, God, for revealing love and peace, where we once saw power and status.

Spiritual Practice: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation Choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude. Look and listen for God in all creation. Write or pray a psalm of praise for the Earth’s beauty or offer a prayer of healing and blessing for its wounds.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will be open to meeting with you spontaneously, should I be so blessed.

Compassionate Cup of Tea

Friday, March 7

3-7By Carole Heathers of Stratford, Ontario, Canada

“And you will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.”

—Mosiah 2:24

My niece rang me on the phone. She had met a young woman in distress and wanted to give her my number. It wasn’t long before the young woman called. I invited her to our house. I wondered if she needed money.

When she arrived I discovered she was well educated and from a wealthy family. She didn’t need money, but she did need friendship. She had just arrived from Indonesia to join her husband, only to be met by news that caused her great pain. Someone had taken advantage of her financially. She was in a strange country and knew few besides the people who had caused the hurt. My heart broke for her. She did need a friend, and God had sent her to me.

We had tea, and she began to tell me her story. After a few hours she was feeling a little better. She went home with my promise that I would be there whenever she needed me. Over the next few months and countless cups tea we became close. Even after she moved to a different city we still got together as often as possible. We drank tea, she talked, and I listened.

Our conversation always seemed to get around to the hurt, disappointment, and anger she was hanging onto. I wondered if she ever would be free of hate and mistrust. She wanted to move on. She wanted to let go and heal, but it was too difficult. She read every book that might help her through the darkness and pain.

She prayed and prayed. It took a long time, a lot of work, and many cups of tea, but with God’s help she was able to let go, forgive, and heal!

Now she and her husband live in a city several miles from us. They have two children and are happily involved in a congregation with other Indonesian émigrés. I don’t hear from her often, but she sent me a beautiful tea set. It was a lovely surprise, a reminder of the many cups of tea we drank as she walked her path of healing. How blessed I was to share in her journey to wholeness.

Prayer for Peace
Compassionate God, help us realize your forgiveness as we forgive others. Help us rid ourselves of hurt, disappointment, and anger. Help us live peaceably with one another.

Spiritual Practice: An Offering of Ashes
God promises healing for our wounds and losses. Hold (or imagine holding) a pinch of ashes in your hands as you become aware of situations in your life, family, congregation, and world that are broken, lost, or falling apart. Be honest with God about the fear, sadness, or burden you feel. Offer the ashes to God in prayer. Ask God to create beauty, peace, and healing in the places and people now experiencing the ashes of despair and grief.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will forgive and shake off hurtful actions.

♫ Hymn of the Month: “Dear God, We Come This Hour to Ask”

Monday, August 5

Close Up of MusicBy Dennis Aldridge of Eardisley, England

…look to the sacraments to enrich the spiritual life of the body. It is not the form of the sacrament that dispenses grace but it is the divine presence that gives life. Be respectful of tradition and sensitive to one another…

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:2d

I have written many hymns and songs, and most have found use in the British Isles. A young couple was planning a wedding in the Sutton in Ashfield church. The mother of the bride, herself a minister, had been moved by some of my hymns, and she asked me to write one for the wedding. That is how I came to write “Dear God We Come.”

I like hymns that tie the present-day church to what has gone before. We are the same church and have brothers and sisters who walked with Jesus Christ in the flesh. I looked for what the scriptures tell us about Jesus at Bethany, Cana and the Sermon on the Mount. Then I thought of my own happy marriage. Married couples need the friendship of Jesus Christ, and they need joy and hope—therefore the hymn.

Dear God, we come this hour to ask your blessing from above
on these who join their lives today in sacrament of love.
The gifts we ask are joy and hope to help them on life’s way,
and friendship of your only son for this and every day.

Just as in Cana, Christ was there so here may Christ be guest,
and as he came to Bethany so may their home be blest,
and as he spoke on mountainside so may they hear his voice,
and as they sense his smile for them so may their hearts rejoice.

Help them, dear God, to live in love, each for the other pure,
not counting cost. So may their joy through all their lives endure.
Enfold them now with loving grace, accept the vows they make.
Preserve their days, fulfill their hopes, we pray, for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Prayer for Peace
Sacramental God, bless us on our journeys of life. Surround us with a loving and supporting community. May we bring Christ into our everyday lives and share his peace.

Spiritual Practice
Contemplate this hymn as a poem (or sing to NORSE AIRE tune).

MMMs with BFFs at Camp

Saturday, June 1

6-1By Sarah Humphrey, Mary Humphrey, and Ciara LaRoque of Independence, Missouri, USA

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

—Matthew 25:40

At camp we did lots of activities. We helped direct campfire, and our cabin groups made up funny skits. My favorite thing about camp was the trail where we walked alone and thought about God. Where the trail led, nobody knew until the end.

The path was lit by candles and had beads at different stations. You would pick up the beads and put them on a string like a necklace. As the trail ended we found the old tabernacle.

As we sat there we talked about things in our lives and how we wanted to help others. We stayed there for hours talking and thinking. I would like to thank my church for sending me to middle school camp.

—Sarah

For two years I’ve gone to middle school camp.  I LOVE IT THERE.

My MMM (most memorable moment) was on the “walk of faith.” On that walk we were blindfolded and sent into the dark to follow an obstacle course. We had to trust that people would be there for us, and that God would protect us from running into tables or smacking into a tree! That night I learned a lot about my life, and I want to thank my congregation for sending me to camp.

—Mary

My experience at junior camp was awesome! I really grew closer to God. The adults did dramas, and I think that helped me understand the stories in the Bible. Luckily I got in the cabin with Sarah and Grace. At first I thought it was going to be a bunch of strangers. But it wasn’t like that. We all got to know each other right from the start. Now we are BFFs (best friends forever). As we worshiped in the tabernacle, I could feel God’s Spirit with all of us in that very room. So thank you to my congregation for helping me pay for junior camp.

—Ciara

Prayer for Peace
Thank you, God, for a community of caring and generous people. With your Spirit, God, we are molded by them. We have memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. We are taught skills and principles to shape our lives and share the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Generosity and Discipleship
Bring a basket or other container to your place of prayer. Meditate on the link between generosity and discipleship. Write a prayer of commitment in which you name specific acts of generosity and sharing to which you feel called. Fold the paper and place the prayer in the offering container. Close by singing a hymn of gratitude or praise as you offer your gift to God.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will consider making an offering to campership programs as a response to your generosity.

Broken Hands

1-19By Barbara Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA

Open your hearts and feel the yearnings of your brothers and sisters who are lonely, despised, fearful, neglected, unloved. Reach out in understanding, clasp their hands, and invite all to share in the blessings of community created in the name of the One who suffered on behalf of all.

—Doctrine and Covenants 161:3a

When I pray for the world, I become the world. I realize that compassion is not mine to give, but God’s gift to me. I cannot embrace the world, but God can. When God became as we are, it became possible for us to share in God’s infinite compassion.

—Henri Nouwen, adapted from Genesee Diary

Paul Brand, noted surgeon of leprosy patients in India and acclaimed for his work restoring their damaged hands, describes a worship service in which he shared, following an intensive day in surgery. He was tired and distracted when the service began. As he stood to address the lepers, he noticed they all hid their hands—their horribly misshapen hands. He spoke to them:

 “I would like to have known Jesus. I would like to have seen his hands.” Brand described to the lepers the scarred hands of Jesus that were torn by the nails on the cross—the hands misshapen from such abuse. As he further spoke of the abiding love and power of the risen Christ he noticed the lepers began to hold up their hands, to wave them in the air as an act of praise.

This story reminds me of the power of Christ’s suffering on behalf of the neglected, despised, and cast out. The people to whom Christ brought ministry were those who suffered society’s rejection. Jesus offers to all the hand of promise. All of us are outcasts in some way, and Jesus comes to us as welcoming friend. We clasp his hands and the promise of new life begins. We open our hands and share that life generously with others.

Prayer for Peace
Take our hands, God. Let them work for you. Touch us with your Spirit. Make us kind like Jesus, sharing peace with all.

Spiritual Practice: Open Hands
Stand or sit with your hands extended in front of you. Prayerfully ponder all the things you hold in your hands that make you feel too full, busy, drained, or tight. Spread your hands up and apart to release these things, then hold them open and empty them again. Thank God for relationships that fill and feed your spirit. Pray for a generous heart and open hands that reach out to make room for all in the circle of Christ’s community.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will clasp a lonely hand with a hand of friendship.

 

Stewards of Friendship

By Martha McKain of Lamoni, Iowa, USA

Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit and you shall have peace in me.  Doctrine and Covenants 18:2n

The Christmas Tea at Liberty Hall in Lamoni, Iowa, is one of the biggest events I help with during the year. It is a joy and a task to get that wonderful home ready for the holiday season. My artistic abilities are limited, so I need someone else’s expertise to help decorate. Florence has come the last few years.

One day Florence and I were putting up the last decorations. She was working at the stair railing, and I was on a stepladder at the Christmas tree. Coming down, I missed the last step. I fell and went scooting across the floor. Nothing was hurt except my pride.

I finally came to my senses and realized Florence was sitting on the floor beside me. I said, “Oh Florence, why are you sitting there? I am so embarrassed.” She said, “Don’t feel that way. I am your friend. This is where I should be!” She probably will never know how much that meant to me. Real friendship is so important to our lives and is helpful in times of need, as well as times of joy.

This episode has caused me to do some thinking about others. I have been slow to do that. Friendship is a stewardship. As Jesus reached out to others, so I need to follow him. Bless us all as we reach out to our neighbors, making friends.

Prayer for Peace:

Companion God, your presence is a blessing to us. The presence of friends blesses us. When someone is on the floor in need, we will be there with them. When we are lifted in joy, we will share that joy. We will share the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Forgiveness

Sit in silence for a few minutes, 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, open 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, open my heart.”

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will be a friend to the lonely.

Sacramental Sharing

By Barbara Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.  Matthew 18:20

We shared lunch with a young couple and went to a film about Hildegard of Bingen. As we left the theater we met a couple from our congregation, and the six of us returned to our home for a spontaneous evening together.

Throughout our meal of leftovers, stories were told, and joy abounded. We heard about each other’s families, delighted in and pondered congregational issues, and laughed at embarrassing moments in church life. We struggled with difficult questions about contemporary culture and the role of the church in creative transformation of cultures. We ate, rejoiced, and celebrated the intimacy of friendship.

The evening was sacred, and prayer seemed appropriate as we formed a quiet circle before parting. Throughout the remainder of the week the sense of God’s presence seemed more intense, more vivid than it had before.

I’ve wondered since that evening if perhaps we limit the meaning of sacrament to ordinances in the church.

The presence of the living Christ is always with us. In a world where intimacy often is lost, the breaking of bread together, the sharing of lives is sacred.

I am grateful for our blessed community and the joy of sacramental sharing.

Prayer for Peace:

God of the individual, God of the community, let us come together to share our joy. Let us be blessed by one another’s presence, and let us be transformed by the spirit of the table—food, story, laughter, and welcoming generosity.

Spiritual Practice:

Visualize or feel an empty vessel at the center of your being (a clay jar, a crystal vase, a metal bucket, or other container). Imagine wanting to draw something from the bucket to share with someone, but as you reach inside you find only a tiny pool of stagnant liquid. You are thirsty, dry, empty.

Then something clear and cool begins to pour over you. It splashes and tumbles into the vessel, filling it to the brim. The living water of Christ pours on and in you. Your vessel fills and runs over, blessing your body and soul. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving and commitment to share living water with others.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will seek others with whom to share your presence. I will respond with joy and generosity.