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.

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Be of One Mind and Heart

Sunday, September 28

Ron Harmon

Ron Harmon

By Ron Harmon, Council of Twelve Apostles

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

—Philippians 2:1–5 NRSV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Stop “Showing up” at Church

Saturday, May 17

5-17By Sydney Arden of Nashville, Tennessee, USA

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes…and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! …and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.” A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins…“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.”

—Mark 12:38–40, 43 NRSV

Yes, you read it right, stop showing up at church.

Years ago I tired of merely attending church services. No longer did the prayer-hymn-word-hymn-prayer “sandwich” connect with me. I am not sure it ever did. I soon realized my soul stirred and longed for something more.

Sunday mornings and I were like a shallow middle-school relationship, and I was ready to break up. For a while I wrestled with feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and hurt. I tired of just “showing up.”

After soul-searching sessions while driving my car, waking in the middle of the night, and doodling during my college classes, a phrase formed among the black ink scribbles.

Start being the church. Stop just “showing up” at church and start being the church.

This is what I call a light bulb moment. The light kept shining. I realized that being a disciple of Jesus Christ doesn’t involve “pew sitting” alone. It is hard work, messy work, and nonstop work. And, most of the time the work does not show immediate results.

What I’m looking for is the glimpse of the sacred in the mundane. I want to see the sparkling moment of Spirit in the hurt and pain. I am aware this is who God calls me to be. There is much more I can do. There are more people to serve, more hurts to heal, more hungry mouths to feed, more to give.

All the while, I realize there is much work to do in my own heart. There are more layers to peel, fewer judgments to give, and much more stretching and growing. So I feel the growing pains.

As I move forward from “church-going” (just showing up) to “church-being,” I will feel the uncomfortable stretch. Sometimes it might hurt. I hope you join me on this changed journey. We can encourage one another rather than allow frustration to take over. Patiently we can reach out. We can help each other to go beyond the pew and engage in Christ’s mission.

I dare you to stop just showing up at church.

Prayer for Peace
Make us, O God, a community that dares to stretch for the sake of the World and Christ’s peace. From the strength we gather in the pew, help us grow and reach out to others.

Spiritual Practice: Develop Disciples to Serve
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to people and their needs. Pray about using your skills to help another person. As you feel affirmed, thank God for the opportunity to be a responding, serving disciple while you move into the outward journey.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will put my trust in the community to help me be the church.

A New Response

Friday, October 18

10-18By Karen Moreland of Independence, Missouri, USA

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

—Zechariah 8:16

“You will be a peacemaker.” As I remembered those words from my Evangelist Blessing, I paused . . . “Me, a peacemaker? Me . . . the one who other children always picked on in grade school, the first one to run and hide when conflict emerges? Me, a peacemaker?” I only knew two ways to cope with conflict: battling it out verbally, or retreating at a fast pace. I did not make peace.

I remember the year I taught a class at reunion (family camp). The lesson of the day was how to deal with a bully who had stolen lunch money. Again, I paused at my feelings of inadequacy. Cautiously I had the children act out the scene in role-play. The message to resolve issues peacefully got across and pleased me. Then a boy raised his hand and said, “You just don’t understand what it’s like at school. You have to deck them first and then demand the money back.” I was speechless for a moment and then glibly explained we are to be peacemakers not fighters. I did not address his frustration or “hear” his pain.

Several years later, my own son was in middle school and facing bullies himself. I knew he was home by the sound of a door slamming. Once again he angrily tossed his books around and shoved items off the table, sending them crashing to the floor. Instead of our usual verbal argument, I responded in a soft voice, “I’m sorry if my work was in your way.” I picked them up off the floor and said, “I’ll keep them somewhere else.”

He stood, mouth agape, and finally stammered, “You weren’t supposed to say that!” Then he went quietly to his room. Later, when he was calm, we discussed his frustrations. Finally, I was a peacemaker. I had learned from the adage, “If you always respond the same way, you will always get the same results.” The Evangelist was right on with his inspired words. Today I work at the Temple reception desk in Independence, Missouri. I greet those who enter to learn ways of peace.

Prayer for Peace
God of wisdom, teach us the ways of peace. May we be examples of calm to those who are frustrated. May we respond with love when we encounter a hateful action. May we “listen” for pain, and have compassion. In doing this, we share the peace of Christ.

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 persons 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 respond to hate and violence in a new way—Christ’s way.

Riding Tandem with God

Thursday, June 13

6-13By Jena Wight of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

—Isaiah 40:31

I was riding on the back of a broken bicycle, holding on for dear life—literally and figuratively. My World Service Corps partner, Tara, and I had been in Africa for over a month. We were starting to feel the physical and emotional strains of our living conditions.

As I rocked and bumped along the road on the way to preach at the Milenje Congregation in Malawi, I wondered how I could stand before the people and say anything significant when I felt frustrated and tired.

So I prayed—almost the whole bike ride to the church. I prayed for everything from strength for Tara, to forgiveness for my attitude, to asking that my heart be softened. We arrived at the church, and Tara and I looked at each other and knew we’d both been doing the same thing on the ride.

We started morning Bible study in the little church, with the sun peeking through the small holes that served as windows. Babies, teenagers, adults, the pastor, and our host father sat on clay benches. The eager eyes of the people were trained on us. They were full of willingness and openness.

I shared the story of “Footprints in the Sand.” As I got to the last line, my voice caught as I realized—God is carrying me. Here. Now. Like the promise in Isaiah, God took away my weariness and gave me strength. I knew as I sat there I would be OK. No matter what happened the rest of the summer, or the rest of my life, I had a new peace—a new strength and dependence on God, who carries me still.

Prayer for Peace
We depend on you, God, for leadership and spiritual strength. You are the brace when our knees would buckle; our penetrating light when our eyes would fall wearily shut. You give us faith when we doubt ourselves. Your arms carry us when we fall short of our mission. You are our words when we forget how to share the peace of Christ.

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 remember Christ’s mission is my mission.