How Shall They Hear?

Tuesday, September 30

"G" is for God

“G” is for God

By Susie Shelton of Independence, Missouri, USA

The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval.

—Romans 14:18 NRSV

I worked for years as a court reporter, but it seemed no matter how hard I worked, my work never satisfied me. Then I discovered real-time captioning—listening to people speak and transcribing the words instantly to the screen. I continued practicing and going to seminars. However, I still felt something was missing. My chosen career left me unfulfilled.

One day I used my real-time captioning skills to help a hearing-impaired man in court. Providing help gave me a deep satisfaction. As a child I learned: All that we are and hope to be, we can dedicate to God and use to serve others.

Years later, I prayed for guidance for my role in Christ’s mission. Then, the Architect of my life turned the light on. I recalled how I felt helping the man in court. I wanted that feeling back. I took a course in sign language to understand better those who were deaf or hard of hearing. I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up. I gave up my concerns to God. It was like jumping into the unknown, trusting God to catch me.

At a university I used my skills to help students. I was their ears. I wanted to expand this service into a ministry. I started contacting churches. Many did not need what I had to offer. I continued honing my skills and praying for opportunities to serve.

One Sunday I stopped at three churches before I came to the Stone Church Congregation in Independence, Missouri. I shared my idea of captioning for hearing-impaired people. The pastor expressed interest. I first wrote the services for me to build my biblical dictionary.

The first Sunday I provided captioning, a woman who was sitting behind me was watching my screen. When the service was over, she thanked me and gave me a hug as tears streamed down her cheeks. Many hearing-impaired people attend this congregation, and I feel joy in making the ministry accessible to them. I hope captioning ministry will expand to other congregations.

Prayer for Peace Architect of life, help us structure our lives to serve those in need.

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 give up my hesitation to serve, and trust you to guide me.

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Break Bread Together

May 4, 2014

5-4By Rick Maupin, Council of Twelve Apostles

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

—Luke 24:13–16 NRSV

Sports analogies don’t draw my attention, typically. However, the first scene of today’s scripture, the two men walking down the road to Emmaus, always brings an analogy to my mind.

The team members practiced hard all season, working tirelessly to learn and complete all the plays well. They respected their coach and followed his guidance. This night they came into the game with a strong belief they would come home victorious. But the game was now over, and they were on the bus taking that long ride home.

It was an extra-long and miserable ride this night because of their defeat. The team could not understand what went wrong. Some may even have wondered if they should stay on the team or continue to play at all. However, after words of reassurance and support by the coach the next morning, the team began to turn its sights to the next game.

I wonder if these two walking on the road to Emmaus were feeling a little like those on the ride home after the game, hearts heavy with despair, feeling hopeless, defeated. And maybe their walk to Emmaus was an act of escaping. Going back to old ways, old habits, back to old comfort zones, back to the way it was “before Jesus.

Is that ever your reaction in difficult times? Do you retreat, pull back to the familiar and comfortable, or hide from the world? Many of us spend time on our own Emmaus road. Maybe the danger is not so much going down that road periodically, but rather when we start living out our life on our Emmaus roads.

One of the most important lessons of the resurrection is to realize there is a God who wants to fold us in love if we choose resurrection over the road to Emmaus. There is hope when we recognize the Living Christ in our journey, and we continue with the Christ to the place of breaking bread. The road to Emmaus may be part of our journey. But, because of the resurrection, it does not have to be our destination.

Prayer for Peace
God who journeys with us, confront us on the road of life with challenges that form our discipleship. Bring to our minds awareness that the one we follow is the one who is with us. May we feel a sense of peace as we travel with our holy companion.

Spiritual Practice: Develop Disciples to Serve
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to people and their needs. The call to journey inward can restore us in times of physical or spiritual depletion. Listen prayerfully to your companions on the journey. How might you help them recognize and respond to Christ?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will see Christ before me as I break bread with my companions.

A Disciple and Mentor

Thursday, May 1

5-By Gary McDonald of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

Let the church be admonished that the times are portentous and demand faithful adherence to the faith and work of the church, that humankind may be blessed by and find peace in those religiously social reforms and relationships which have been divinely imposed as a great task of achievement.

—Doctrine and Covenants 137:6a, adapted

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to tell Austin what I thought of him. First, let’s go back five decades to when I was 16.

Our family moved from the Southwest USA to the Pacific Northwest, and I felt anchorless. My parents uprooted and removed me from my friends and mentors, and I was casting about for replacements. That’s when I met Austin. He served as a priest, but he also functioned as a deacon. He generously taught my cousins and me the importance of the deacon’s role.

Weekly, he would recruit us to help. We would follow him around and do what he did. In those days, we gathered two or three times a week. Austin was fussy about details. He was precise. Everything had to be just right.

The comfort of the worshiping congregation was important to Austin. The room’s temperature had to be perfect. Proper ventilation was necessary. He made sure we greeted the people cheerfully. Receiving the offering in a professional and proper manner was critical. Under his instruction, we learned the ministry of the deacon.

When I unexpectedly came across Austin in a public place, it gave me the opportunity to express my gratitude. He offered himself in service on many occasions. He volunteered because he knew it was important to bring the next generation into the Lord’s work.

He was always cheerful and patient. I looked up to this man. I still look up to him for reassurance and guidance. I think Austin is a disciple of Christ, one with whom I felt honored to work.

We never know what influence we have on others. Austin’s influence on me was significant. I am grateful he shared his passion for Christ’s mission.

Prayer for Peace
Tender Shepherd, we thank you for the gift of other shepherds who bring blessing to our lives. Thank you for those who carry forward a legacy of service. Thank you for those who provide an example of Christ’s peace.

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 share with another the skills I pour into my passion.

The Stubborn Sheep

Tuesday, April 15

4-15aBy Nancy Hylton of Seattle, Washington, USA

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

—John 10: 14–17

Because the Sunday-morning speaker was ill and could not preach, the presider shared spontaneously. She had been pondering what we could learn from Jesus during that week before Good Friday and Easter. She related her experiences as the child of a sheepherder.

She shared about the meaning of “sheepfold,” the high walls meant to protect the sheep from predators in the night. Her father had a special call that all the sheep knew. Because sheep are followers, when he called them to the fold, they would follow him.

At least, most of them would follow. Often a stubborn little sheep would be eating grass and not feel like going. So he was left behind. Because he was alone, the stubborn sheep soon would begin “crying” for the shepherd.

What a genuine metaphor our Lord used! How often I have been like that stubborn sheep! At times I found myself deciding there were better things to do than answer the shepherd’s call to guidance and safety, to purpose and mission.

The message was powerful! I often think of myself trying hard not to be that stubborn sheep! I remember the sacrifice of the Good Shepherd and I listen for his voice.

Prayer for Peace
Tender Shepherd, be patient with us when we think we don’t need you. Call us again and remind us whose we are. Remind us of Christ’s mission of peace and of our part in the community fold.

Spiritual Practice: Voices of God
What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for shalom, God’s dream of beauty and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling to us in faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter, in silence and noise?

Spend a few moments reflecting on when and how God’s voice has spoken to you. When did you first feel called to follow Christ in the pursuit of peace and justice? How does that call to shalom continue to come to you through the many “voices” of God?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will listen for your voice and follow.

Companions on the Journey

Monday, March 31

3-31By Steven L. Shields of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

—Luke 1:78–79

Not long ago, my friend and his fiancé needed a ride from the airport. I met them at baggage claim and helped them load the luggage into my car. Not knowing the way from the airport to the fiancé’s house, I asked for the destination. My friend replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you where to turn along the way.”

I headed toward the motorway, when my friend suddenly said, “Take this exit.” With screeching tires, I barely made the turn, cutting off another car. I asked my friend to tell me where we were going, so I could think ahead of the route to avoid such dangerous maneuvers. He said, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you where to go.”

I knew that somewhere along the way I would have to exit the motorway, so again I asked, “What exit do I need to take next?” He replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when we get close.” I do not know that part of the city well, so I begged him to tell me what street we were looking for. He told me the name of the street, and soon I saw a signboard telling me it was a mile ahead.

We exited and headed east along the main thoroughfare. I asked, “What street are we looking for? Will we need to turn right or left?” My friend said, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when we get there.”

I have a much easier journey if I know the destination. However, the path of the disciple is not so much about the destination as it is about the journey. For it is along the way that we share the peace of Jesus Christ. Our minds focus so much on the destination we do not often notice the scenery. As we travel along the path of the disciple, we will meet many people who need our loving touch or kind words of encouragement.

With my friends in the car, I did not need to worry about the destination. We were together; we were community. As long as we journeyed together, we knew we would reach our destination, and we would know along the way when and where it was best to turn.

Prayer for Peace
Guide us, God. Shine your light on the path you would have us take. Whisper to us at each turn. Open our eyes to see your creation along the path to peace.

Spiritual Practice: Offering 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? Go deeper each day as you discern what act of blessing you are invited to complete for stranger and friend alike.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will let go of having to know. I will put my trust in you.

Led by the Spirit

Sunday, March 9

3-9By Scott Murphy, First Presidency

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

—Matthew 4:1–4

I find it interesting how in our human nature we try to define specific periods of time to which we commit ourselves. This is part of our spiritual and religious preparation. The season of Lent is one of those times.

Lent is a time when we heighten our awareness of God’s actions in the world through God’s Son, Jesus. During the 40 days of Lent we decide to fast or alter our lives in such a way that we remember the journey Jesus took. But before we make this sacrificial effort, we have developed another day of indulgence known as “Fat Tuesday.” We take all we like to eat or do and indulge ourselves one last time before Ash Wednesday. Then for the next 40 days, we try to control those urges we have.

Lent is important to our Christian lives. In addition, we must struggle on our journey with two questions: First, who will we be at the end of the 40 days? Second, how will we respond to God’s call to our lives?

In many ways, Jesus faced these same questions as the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness following his baptism encounter with God. There in the wilderness, Jesus faced the temptations of doubt and misdirection of his purpose and life. He considered how he would choose to use his power—for himself or for the salvation of all of God’s creation.

In this season of Lent, we purposefully hear this story of Jesus’ experience. It reminds us of the Jesus who discovered who he was in God as he lived true to his calling for the world’s sake. The Jesus who struggled in the wilderness is also present in our wilderness experiences.

Prayer for Peace
God of wisdom, we thank you for our daily bread—your words of guidance and assurance. Forgive us if we get stuck on “Fat Tuesdays.” May our journey through Lent inform our discipleship for sharing the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: The Ashes of God’s World
Hold an imaginary or real bowl of ashes in your hands; let it represent the losses, sufferings, and injustices in the global community. Name those that particularly grieve you. Pray a blessing on Community of Christ as it responds to the ashes of God’s world with healing words and restoring actions.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will not be tempted by what I can do without. I will consider what I might sacrifice for your mission.

Help, Don’t Hurt

NatureThursday, February 13

By Paul McCain of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

—Romans 12:18

Over the years, trying to condense learning into something useful for every day, I gravitate to a mantra. It is a simple statement, and I can fit it neatly into many circumstances. It is, “Help, don’t hurt.”

When I interact with co-workers, clerks, church folks, family, and friends, in the time (sometimes seconds) just before I speak or act, I pose a silent question: “Will this help or hurt?” This seemingly simple question is heavy at times.

In discussing this with friends, a concern about “playing God” arises. I have no qualms about asking, “What would Jesus do?” In discerning what the Lord would have me do, I find it helpful to pray for guidance, and then ask, “What should I do here?”

In class settings I draw a vertical line down the middle of a board. I title the left side “Help,” the right side “Hurt.” I then ask for words and phrases for either side. I try to avoid general words in favor of specific actions. Next, if someone hasn’t already suggested it, I ask if there are those that fit on the opposite side.

With extremes set aside, we end up with everyday stuff that requires our action. We discuss how we can make sure we are sensing the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And, we discover that “practice” is the best way to proceed.

May we get better at understanding God’s direction in our lives as we seek to help, not hurt, others.

Prayer for Peace
Compassionate God, help us pause and choose a more helpful way to respond to others. Even when we’re right, help us choose to not hurt. Help us lean toward reconciliation and peace.

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 compose a mantra for my life that will help, and not hurt.

Listen to the Voice

Sunday, December 29

12-29By David Brock, presiding evangelist

…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”…A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel…”Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel… And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.

—Matthew 2:13, 18–21

There are two important voices to listen to in this well-known passage. The first is the voice of the angel of the Lord that speaks to Joseph in dreams: “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt.” “Get up . . . and go to the land of Israel.” Get up . . . and go to Galilee.”  [Note throughout the scriptures the multitude of times dreams are the means God uses to reveal truth to humankind!]

As with Joseph, God can also speak in our dreams; through the unconscious. In our hectic, waking life, we often miss the Voice that speaks deepest truths, that provides guidance beyond the wisdom of our own intellect . . . as essential as human reasoning is. As the Voice of God guided Joseph in dreams for Jesus’ well-being, so we as Body of Christ are called also. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants, to “Listen to the Voice that echoes across the eons of time and yet speaks anew in this moment.”

The other voice to hear in this passage is the voice of loud weeping; the anguished voice of Rachel mourning the death of her children. We too must hear the God weeping in Rachel and weeping “for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world” who suffer unnecessarily. We must open our ears to hear the Rachel of old as well as “the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children.”

Rachel’s voice is the Voice of God. The angel speaking to Joseph in the dream is the Voice of God. “Listen to the Voice, for it cannot be stilled, and it calls you once again to the great and marvelous work of building the peaceable kingdom, even Zion….”

Prayer for Peace
Holy Voice, we listen to you through the voices of the mistreated of the world. We listen to those in need of justice and the peace of Christ. We will respond by hearing and sharing.

Spiritual Practice: Voices of God
What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for shalom; God’s dream of justice and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling to us in faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word? Reflect on when and how God’s voice has spoken to you. When did you first feel called to join God in the pursuit of peace and justice? How does that call to shalom come to you?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will listen for your voice. I will hear. I will consider. I will respond.

Responsible Choices, Responsible Giving

Saturday, December 21

12-21By Donna Boyd of Independence, Missouri, USA

The Spirit of the One you follow is the spirit of love and peace. That Spirit seeks to abide in the hearts of those who would embrace its call and live its message. The path will not always be easy, the choices will not always be clear, but the cause is sure and the Spirit will bear witness to the truth, and those who live the truth will know the hope and the joy of discipleship in the community of Christ. Amen.

—Doctrine and Covenants 161:7

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, we face many decisions. If we take part in the gift-giving tradition, we have to decide who gets what. If we are hosting guests we have to decide who to invite and what food to serve. How do we spend our time—all party and decoration or in worship and centering on Christ?

Even in everyday tasks we find guidance from God. We know the Divine cares for us by the guidance we receive in our minor choices as well as our major choices. Our lives are richer when we let the model of Christ guide us in all matters.

When we face a major choice which may change our lives and the lives of others, we are more likely to pause for guidance. We don’t try to consult God like an oracle or expect an answer as tangible as we might find in a fortune cookie. God is not our decision maker, but a spiritual guide. With prayer and discernment, we can expect broadening insight to make more responsible choices.

Sometimes the Spirit of God makes us aware of the wisest choice. Sometimes the facts become clearer for us to analyze. We learn to take responsibility for our choices. We are glad God wants us to grow closer in our relationships. We rejoice that we have the freedom to choose for ourselves. We are thankful that engaging in Christ’s mission guides us toward right decisions “and the Spirit will bear witness to the truth…”

Perhaps we’ll feel led to choose to invest in the growth of another— perhaps helping them put Christ at the center of their Christmas. We praise God for the light shed on our learning, growing, and decision-making.

Prayer for Peace
Generous God, lead us to generosity. May we choose to follow the star and lay our gifts at the manger of grace.

Spiritual Practice for Advent: Love
Reflect on the love of God. How is it that God sent Christ to be “all our loves exceeding?” How do you see God’s love revealed in Christ? How is God’s love revealed in your own life? Think of ways you can express that love as you prepare for the Son of God—love’s pure light? Thank God for the ultimate gift of love: Jesus Christ.

Peace Covenant
Today I am deciding to choose love, God…love to the world!

The Spirit Leads to Peace

Thursday, August 15

8-15By Shirley Remmenga of Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

—Romans 15:5–7

Silently, sweetly, and warmly it resided in my being. I did not recognize its presence in the beginning. I had a sense, but not a knowing. I was an obedient child, taught carefully and lovingly about God. I learned to pray when I was tiny. I could feel and see God’s presence in nature—the crops, the weeds, the garden, the storms, the sunshine, and the rain. It was in the animals—tame and wild—the soil, the flowers, the bees, and much more.

Gradually I began learning about the Holy Spirit—about the soft voice within that helped me, comforted me, taught me, and inspired me. I began to know. I remember clearly the voice within that told me not to let my brothers’ teasing bother me. Rather, it told me that I should not react at all to the teasing. So I followed the gentle lead, and sure enough…peace. It took only a couple weeks before they stopped teasing me.

This is just one example of how I grew to recognize and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Year by year we became better acquainted, and I began to know, deep inside me. Of course, I still don’t know all, but I do know the Holy Spirit is real for me. The Spirit is always present, guiding my life, and making it possible to live joyfully with a positive, optimistic outlook. The Holy Spirit silently, sweetly, warmly, and continuously lives in my deepest being. How beautiful is the Spirit’s presence.

Prayer for Peace
Steadfast God of encouragement, reside in us. Help us always be aware of your warm presence. Help us be open to your shalom. Help us share your presence and Christ’s peace with all.

Spiritual Practice: Voices of God
What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for shalom; God’s dream of beauty and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling to us in faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter, in silence and noise? Spend a few moments reflecting on when and how God’s voice has spoken to you. When did you first feel called to join God in the pursuit of justice and peace? How does that call to shalom continue to come to you through the many “voices” of God?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, with your presence, I will be open to your shalom.