Circle of Justice

Friday, October 3

10-3By Ramona Seeley of Leeton, Missouri, USA

“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. …And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

—Matthew 12:18, 21 NRSV

I was teaching in the Kansas City, Missouri, School District when the law passed to integrate the schools. I was teaching at Bristol School, which was inside the Independence, Missouri, city limits. All the students were Caucasian.

The first week after the busing order came, we got a bomb threat and had to evacuate the school. We loaded the children on the buses and sent them home. After a thorough investigation, police decided it was safe to continue, and school reassembled the next day. We were sorry the children had experienced a racist message of hatred. We realized we had much work to do in the school and in the community.

Gradually tensions eased, and we held an assembly. The teachers, black and white, held hands and surrounded the auditorium as we sang, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” It was a moving experience, and we felt we had succeeded in responding to hate with justice and love.

We burn our bridges before us,
when we judge without yet knowing.

—Lu Mountenay

Prayer for Peace Creator of all, help us see each one of your creatures as beloved. Help us proclaim justice and peace to all.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons Read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the words sink deeply into your mind, heart, and body. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made”?

Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has for you and everyone. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How does God invite you to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will see another’s heart before I see the color of skin.

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Where’s Your Money?

Thursday, September 4

Jar of MoneyBy Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

—Matthew 11:29–30 NRSV

When I was 17, I had a good friend named Linda. We lived near each other, went to school together, and even worked at the same place. I was saving for college, and Linda was saving for a car. We both kept a little money aside for fun, which we usually spent together.

When Linda’s brother came home from military duty in Vietnam, it seemed she no longer had any money. Whenever we went anywhere—movie, school game, or restaurant, she needed to borrow from me. One day when we were walking on the beach, our favorite pastime, I finally asked her where all her money was.

She told me she had lent it to her brother. Because I knew he still received payment from the military, I asked when she thought he might pay it back so she could get her car. She sheepishly told me she didn’t lend it to him; she gave it to him. I expressed concern because I knew he spent a lot on cigarettes and beer. I went so far as to tell her she had better not dip into her savings.

She said, tearfully, “I already gave him all of it. I couldn’t say ‘no’ to him.”

This concerned me even more. I don’t remember what I said next, but it must have been hurtful. I will never forget what she said, “He’s alive! That’s all I care about. He came back to me. I’ve worried and feared for his life for two years. I’m just so thankful he’s alive.”

You can imagine how I felt—petty and small. Looking back as a slightly more objective adult, at one time I framed some ideas about Linda enabling her brother’s poor choices. I decided I was just trying to excuse my judgmental self. Linda was the one who had her priorities straight. She loved her brother unconditionally. She sacrificed for him. She forgave him for wasting her money. She forgave me for not understanding her motives and for judging her brother. I learned a good lesson in humility.

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, when we think highly of ourselves, help us bend low and reach for the hem of Christ’s robe, where we will find the humble heart of Jesus. Accept the love of our poor hearts. Forgive us when we impose our values on another. Help us humbly share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: The Jesus Prayer of Mercy The Jesus Prayer is an ancient spiritual practice from Orthodox Christianity. It is a way of connecting with the gracious spirit of Christ as we ask to receive his mercy. The prayer comes from the scripture of the blind man calling Jesus to heal him. Silently enter prayer and let your breath become slow and even. Greet God and then take up the prayer phrase: Lord, Jesus Christ (as you breathe in)…Have mercy on me (as you breathe out). Prayerfully repeat these words for several minutes (or 40 times). Breathe the presence of Christ into your mind, heart, and body. Be transformed as you receive the compassionate, peaceful heart of Jesus.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will not presume to know your will for another person.

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.

You Can See It in the People

Monday, June 9

Dunfield House

Dunfield House

By Michael Clarke of Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, England

And there came a voice to them, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying, “Peace, peace be to you because of your faith in my well beloved, who was from the foundation of the world.”

—Helaman 2:112

I had just returned home after a weekend with my church family from Clay Cross in a congregation weekend at Dunfield House, the British Isles Mission Centre campgrounds. It was the first time at Dunfield for three of our church members. It was good to see their faces as we arrived.

On the first night, one said he could feel the Spirit all around. I asked if he would share how he could sense the Spirit. He said, “You can see it in the people, the church family, in the place, and in the nature around Dunfield.”

This reminded me of my first time at Dunfield. I had spoken the same words. I told him that to me, Dunfield was like heaven, full of God’s love. I added that our church, Community of Christ, is a church of people who share God’s love and care for all.

We had a great time at Dunfield. At the end of the weekend, we traveled back to Clay Cross. I stayed the night with friends, Andrew and Kyle, before returning to my home in Scunthorpe the next day. They waved at me as I left on the train. Each of us had tears in our eyes. On the train, I smiled, knowing my church family loves and cares for me.

Prayer for Peace Thank you, God, for times at quiet places where we hear you more clearly. Thank you for our communities where we can feel your love and Spirit. Thank you for the way we see you in the faces of your creation.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons Read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the words sink deeply into your mind, heart, and body. Imagine God watching you grow in your mother’s womb. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made”?

Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has for you and everyone. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How does God invite you to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will invite someone to a church or family activity.

Common Ground

Wednesday, May 7

5-7By Flo McDonald of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace…

—Colossians 1:19–20 NRSV

I witnessed what it means to have harmony amid adversity. Not long ago I attended a celebration dinner for a family member who had achieved a goal in education. The attendees were uncomfortable because of past conflicts. They were there because of the young man—a perfect opportunity for reconciliation and making peace.

In the beginning, there was an air of hostility and withdrawal. The young man didn’t notice, and he thoroughly enjoyed his family being together in his honor. Before the evening was over, everyone was talking, taking pictures, and visiting as old friends.

I looked at those around the table and noticed the congeniality. I thanked God for love and blessing. I knew this happened because God was at work during that time. It came about because of our common love—love for the young man grew into love for all who loved him. We came together, and love found its way to the table.

Thanks be to God for continual and many blessings of joy, hope, love, and peace—and for allowing me to see the possibilities of harmony amid adversity.

Prayer for Peace

Reuniting God, open our hearts so love may come in. Help us find common ground and with it, peace.

Spiritual Practice: Pursue Peace on Earth
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 161:2a. Reflect on how you can “see violence but proclaim peace…feel conflict, yet extend the hand of reconciliation…encounter broken spirits and find pathways for healing.” What does the peace of Christ mean to you?

Begin by prayerfully listening to your longing for peace. Prayerfully open yourself to God’s yearning for peace and the divine vision of shalom. What act of justice or peacemaking does God invite you to pursue this day? Dwell on these words of pursuit: see, proclaim, feel, extend, encounter, find.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will pursue peace by overlooking differences.

Wounded Feet

Friday, April 18 (Good Friday)

4-18By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA

You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.

—Psalm 22:23–24

It was I, my redeeming Lord, who touched your garment. Yes, I—soiled with sin, reaching for you—pure and holy. I considered turning away and hiding in the crowd. But when my eyes met yours, I knew you cared as no physician had before. You did not hide your face from one in need.

Later, as you hung dying, the thick gray clouds shed tears while the Earth sobbed violently, shaking its massive shoulders. Darkness swallowed up the wailing people, and we cried out, “Is light banished forever?”

Anguish consumed us.

A timid ray pushed through the storm clouds. Another and another burst on us, and we rejoiced. We then knew God’s love had penetrated the world’s most frightful storm.

Though dark sin cost you your life, you loved us still and set us free. So what can we do but hurry and tell the suffering world, so it, too, may cast its burden below your wounded feet?

Prayer for Peace
God of the rising sun, touch your holy flame to us, that we may kindle others. Rest your Spirit on us that we may share your peace.

Spiritual Practice: Invite People to Christ
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 162:3b and 163:2b. Pray to be aware of people who might be receptive to, and therefore blessed by, your sharing of the message of the Living Christ. Imagine being in relationship with them and inviting them to Christ. In preparation, discover your personal testimony of Christ. “Be persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.” Repeat this mantra throughout the day: “Christ’s mission, our mission, my mission.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God I will not turn my face from one in need of the good news.

Serve Humbly

Sunday, October 27

10-27By John Wight, senior president of seventy

…‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

—Luke 18:13–14

I had known this man as an apostle and as the presiding evangelist of the Community of Christ. People regarded him favorably in these prominent leadership roles. Thus, I was a bit surprised to see brother Everett Graffeo rolling around on a gym floor in a local Boys and Girls Club. He was there, laughing and playing with young children who were part of his group at the Hawthorne Place Jesus and Me Club.

As I thought more about it, the surprise quickly disappeared into an understanding that Everett, now retired from church appointment, was exactly where one would expect to find him—serving humbly. Despite his years of service in the highest levels of church leadership, this gentle, loving servant of Jesus Christ was once again living our his understanding of humble service.

This was not a onetime experience. Week after week, I would see Brother Graffeo sitting on that gym floor sharing the love and peace of Jesus Christ with children who came from difficult family environments. He communicated to them how important they were and how much worth they had—a message different from what they heard at home.

Most weeks he would eventually end up carrying little David from activity to activity because the little six year old would fall asleep in his arms. David didn’t know that “Mr. Everett” had been a top church leader. All he knew was that his friend, a humble servant of the Lord, loved and cared about him.

I am grateful for this living example of humble service. It is a wonderful model for me to emulate in my own efforts to serve humbly.

Prayer for Peace
Tender Shepherd, we thank you for sending Christ to find us when we lose our way. We thank you for models of generous and humble natures, that we may understand how to share the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: The Jesus Prayer of Mercy
The Jesus Prayer is an ancient spiritual practice from Orthodox Christianity. It is a way of connecting with the gracious spirit of Christ as we ask to receive his mercy. The prayer comes from the scripture of the blind man calling Jesus to heal him. Silently enter prayer and let your breath become slow and even. Greet God and then take up the prayer phrase: Lord, Jesus Christ (as you breathe in) … have mercy on me (as you breathe out). Prayerfully repeat these words for several minutes (or forty times). Breathe the humble presence of Christ into your mind, heart, and body. Be transformed as you receive the humble, peaceful heart of Jesus.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will reflect on a disciple whose humble nature I might emulate.

Who Knows?

Monday, July 29

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Terry West of Clay Cross, United Kingdom

Be fervent in your witness, passionate in your discipleship, and vigorous in your labor on behalf of peace and justice. Where two or three such disciples form community, there will the Spirit be. Many will come to see.

—Doctrine and Covenants162:8b

Let me share a few facts:

I would like to point out that I do not have a religion. My wife, Jackie, works for Community of Christ as a bookkeeper at the Clay Cross, United Kingdom, offices. She attends church every week with our children, Brandon and Tyler. We’re bringing them up with strong Community of Christ principles. I do attend church on occasion to support my family.

A couple of years ago we went to reunion (family camp) at Dunfield House for three days. This was the first time I had met with a large gathering of church members outside the Clay Cross Congregation.

The next year we attended reunion for the whole week—what a joy! The camp was full of great spirit. The singing was a joy. Conversation was a pleasure. I was asked to say a few words about what I gained from my reunion experience, which I gladly did. What came across most was the unconditional love from everyone. The passion and commitment of the young adults was high—they are the church’s future. It was a shame the week had to end.

On returning home, I was sitting at the dining table, just pondering. I noticed my wife’s Daily Bread on the table. I picked it up and started to read. I got involved with the stories inside, which led me to send you this story.

The point I’m trying to make is the people, each and every one, of Community of Christ have something special. This experience will stay with me forever, and I hope one day to say I am a member. For now, it’s just one step at a time. Who knows?

I needed to let someone know my thoughts. Thanks for listening.

Prayer for Peace
God, keep us ever mindful that we always witness of you. May we always have an inclusive and sharing spirit. May we always share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Invite People to Christ
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 162:3b and 163:2b. Pray to be aware of people who might be receptive, and therefore blessed, by your sharing of the message of the Living Christ. Imagine being in relationship with them and inviting them to Christ. In preparation, discover your personal testimony of Christ. “Be persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.” Repeat this mantra throughout the day: “Christ’s mission, our mission, my mission.”

Peace Covenant:
Today, God, I will extend to a stranger an invitation to “come and see.”

Looking at Four Elements of Love

Wednesday, May 1

5.1By John Bonney of Springfield, Oregon, USA

We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another…We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

—1 John 3:14, 16

For me love is the foundation of everything. I gradually recognized that love, however defined, is a noun requiring a verb. It is a catalyst to loving action. Love is causal. Love is the flame that ignites the fire. It is the hidden yeast that allows the dough to rise. Love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling toward a limited number of people or a dog; at least not the understanding of love which I pursue.

In the joy and mystery of the journey, I came to know love had to be unconditional. If it were not, then it could not fill the role I believe love plays in creation. Unconditional love, divine love, carries only one requisite—there are no requirements. We often talk about unconditional love, and then go on to suffocate it by loading it with conditions. There is no place for conditions in God’s love.

Each step on my journey to discover love caused me to look closely at the life and ministry of Jesus. I see in Jesus an unusual depth of commitment. He displayed a tremendous depth of love and the highest form of humanity. He gave of himself out of love for others. He put his life on the line for those in need, for those who are vulnerable, in other words—everyone. He embodied sacrificial love.

Unconditional, sacrificial, and now radical. Again looking at the life of Jesus, I see a love that was radical. Radical in the first century and radical today. It steps over, passes through, and moves beyond all the human-erected barriers. It scares the power structures of society: governments, religious leaders, politicians, the wealthy. Radical love is not the status quo.

The burden carried by unconditional, sacrificial, radical love is not yet fitted in place without the catalyst of vulnerability. Practicing this love, we become aware of humans in need, troubled, at risk. We see how love can heal as we open our hearts to others. We see compromised ecosystems, the failing Earth. We are prompted into the action of love. Amid this action, we, too, become vulnerable to God’s grace-full love.

Prayer for Peace
Your love, God, is hard to put into words. We pray that your love will be the catalyst for us to share the love and peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Connecting with God as Center
Open yourself to God’s presence and share what flows from your heart and mind. Your “communication with God” might include thoughts, questions, feelings, needs, artwork, quotes, or scriptures. Or it might take the form of a prayer, psalm, or poem. What surprises you? How do you feel God’s love? What deepens or changes in your relationship with God, Christ, Spirit?

Peace Covenant
“When the power of love overcomes love of power, the world will know peace.”

—Jimi Hendrix

Disciples Grow in Love

Wednesday, April 10

4-10By Robert Glenn of Evansville, Indiana, USA

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

—Psalm 36:7–9

When a baby is born into a family, we can see a change in the dynamics of that family from the viewpoints of parents, siblings, grandparents, and extended family. Babies are a blessing from God; they embody divine love and grace. God creates us so we might have joy.

This joy expresses itself in many ways over time. We see it when we witness the growth of the child through adolescence, young adulthood, and continuing formation as an adult. When we reach our older years, we may have witnessed this many times, often with new eyes.

The love shared between family members and God is beautiful. I have witnessed the effect children have and the blessing they are to many families. I also have found that people become bruised and broken when families do not grow with one another. How sad it is when we do not fully embrace and share the love of God.

The examples of Jesus and the way he lived his life help us connect and understand God’s love. We can rejoice in God’s love when relationships are reestablished.

Prayer for Peace
Steadfast and loving God, we take refuge in your love and the love of our families. Where families are broken, may we bring healing and reconciliation. Where there are rifts, may we build bridges. Where there is loneliness, may we share God’s love. Where there is anger, let us share the peace of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Develop Disciples to Serve
Read and reflect on Psalm 42:1–2. 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. Imagine you can feel a vessel at the center of your being (a clay jar, a crystal vase, a metal bucket, or other container). Imagine drawing something from the vessel to share with another person, but as you reach inside you find only a tiny pool of stagnant liquid. You are thirsty and dry; empty. Listen prayerfully again to the psalm, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” As you feel restored, thank God for the opportunity to be a responding, serving disciple while you move into the outward journey. Remember this exercise as you drink water throughout the day.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will look for ways to build bridges with your love.