Out of the Depths

Friday, September 5

9-5By Vera Entwistle of Eugene, Oregan, USA

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope…

—Psalm 130:1–5 NRSV

Today it seemed so many people made demands on me. Some were pleading, some whining, some demanding…until I wanted to shout, “What about my needs?” As soon as I thought it, these questions came suddenly to mind and left me stunned:

Do you ever feel like that, God? And, where do you go when we do not meet your needs?

As those thoughts resounded through my whole being, I took a deep breath, lifted my eyes toward the sky, and simply said, “Thank you, God, for your patience with me.”

Prayer for Peace Patient God, how can we lament our needs when you have given so much? As we center ourselves in you, take us with you to that place where we can see through your eyes. Set in us that urge to comfort the mourners and share with them the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Time with God Sit quietly and let your breathing become calm and deep. Ask God’s Spirit to rest on you. See or sense the Spirit anointing you in the form of light, a dove, wind, color, or other images that might come. Ask to become aware of God’s love. Listen to the ways in which God wants to flow from your heart as living water. Give thanks that your name is “beloved,” that our name is Community of Christ.

Peace Covenant Today, God, as I ponder the sorrows of the Earth, I will remember that you cry with us.

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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.

Persistent Praise (or “Please Stop Singing!”)

Thursday, July 31

Close Up of MusicBy Carl Mesle of Independence, Missouri, USA

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous. Praise befits the upright…Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

—Psalm 33:1, 3–5 NRSV

As a teenager, John loved to sing with the other youth in his congregation. It wasn’t long before someone would say, “Please, John, stop singing!” When he asked why, they would say, “John, you sing in monotone, always singing the same note.”

These comments would crush him, until one day a compassionate choir director arranged for John to take voice lessons. The other singers could hear only John’s poor voice, but the choir director heard John’s need to praise God.

When asked by his new voice coach why he wanted to learn to sing, John answered, “I want to be a missionary. In some small congregations I will have to lead the singing.” The voice teacher took on her new charge (and challenge), spending twice as long with him as with other students.

Because John was the son of a cash-strapped missionary himself, the teacher charged only half her normal lesson fee. The teacher’s determination and John’s faith brought progress. I soon saw him singing bass in the Messiah Choir at Stone Church. This shows the power of persistence, the result of a youth leader who listened, and the patience and generosity of a teacher.

Prayer for Peace Patient God, help us be patient, too. Help us respect the desires of others to serve. May we welcome their gifts, offered from the heart. May we invite them to join us in sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring God’s Call to Others Reflect on God’s call in your life. Quietly reflect on the moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation to expand your gifts. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come. When have you experienced God through the calling and gifts of others? How do your gifts connect with the call of God you notice in your family, friends, congregation, or community?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will listen to the heart of those who praise you.

Open Our Eyes

Sunday, March 30

3-30By Rick Maupin, Council of Twelve Apostles

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” …When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

—John 9:1–3, 6–7

I claim to want a close connection with God that will open my eyes. However, I am not always willing to walk all the way to the “pool of Siloam.” I sometimes seek a shorter and easier path.

Often I see evidence of a fast-food-drive-up-window attitude in my culture. Customers want their meals to arrive quickly and to taste good. They don’t want to spend much money. So what is the connection between the pool of Siloam and the fast-food window? I want a meaningful relationship with God, and I want my spiritual eyes to be open. However, there are times when I want that new sight to occur quickly. I want it to feel good, and I don’t want to invest much effort and energy.

Some fast-food meals are less than satisfying. Trying to find a deep connection with God, or opening our eyes to new truth in a fast-paced, feel-good, low-investment way is also less than fulfilling.

Jesus placing the mud on the man’s eyes was only the first step. New sight was not instantaneous or easy. The man then had to journey across town to the pool of Siloam. The journey may not have been fast. It may have been awkward as he stumbled with mud dripping from his face. He went because Jesus touched and sent him. Could it be that in the journey to the pool he was beginning to gain his sight? Today Jesus Christ continues to offer us “mud packs” so we can see his mission, our mission, more clearly. What new visions are awaiting you on the way to the pool?

Prayer for Peace
Shaping God, help us make a full investment of time and energy spent with you. Help us do the work it takes to become spiritually whole. Help us transform quick trips into intentional journeys as we share the peace of Christ along the way.

Spiritual Practice: Shaping into Wholeness
Hold (or imagine holding) a glass cup, bowl, or vase. Explore its shape, texture, and color. Let the container symbolize your life as it is being formed. Write on strips of paper (or in your journal) the aspects of your life that are not yet just or whole. Place the strips in the glass container and hold it in your hands. Pray a prayer of confession and petition. Ask God to continue to breathe in and on you, shaping you into a just and compassionate person.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will slow down and absorb every part of your creation that I meet.

Soften My Heart, Lord

Friday, March 21

3-21By Dan Sherman of Indianola, Iowa, USA

Regarding priesthood, God calls whoever God calls from among committed disciples, according to their gifts, to serve and reach all humankind. Priesthood policies and procedures provide a clear way for disciples to respond to calling. They also define the difference between a sense of call as potential and the need to align one’s life with principles of moral behavior and relationships that promote the well-being of the church community.

—Words of Counsel, 2013 World Conference

After the 2013 USA National Conference, I had a hard time accepting the recommendation allowing members in same-sex/gender relationships to hold priesthood offices. I even turned in my priesthood card.

I reflected on scripture, prayed, and discussed this with family, friends, my pastor, and other priesthood members. I determined that I could not be a member of, or associated with, a church that allowed this.

Since then I continued to reflect on that decision and to search scripture to get a handle on it. I kept hearing the song, “Soften My Heart” (CCS 187). Because of this song, I realized that I had built a wall of exclusion. I was preaching about tearing down walls, and I was the one reinforcing the wall.

My heart had been hard and I needed God’s softening love and understanding. The Spirit then moved in me and gently led me to know that I need to love ALL people. It took me a while to allow the Spirit to move in me. I am thankful for God’s patience.

Prayer for Peace
Patient and loving God, we need the ebb and flow of your Spirit to nudge our resistance and embrace your passion for equality and justice.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring God’s Call to Others
Reflect on God’s call in your life. Quietly reflect on the moments when you have experienced God’s presence and invitation to expand your gifts. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come. When have you experienced God through the calling and gifts of others? How do your gifts connect with the call of God that you notice in your family, friends, congregation, or international community?

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will honor your call to others.

The Mystery of Prayer

Thursday, June 6

6-6By Dorene Kilburn of Stratford, Ontario, Canada

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. …And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

—Luke 18:1, 7–8

Those who believe in God know the value of prayer. Most believers have had experiences with prayer. Yet, we often find prayer a mystery. When we ask God for guidance, sometimes we get clear and immediate answers. Sometimes we don’t. There are times when we wait days, weeks, months, even years.

Perhaps an answer to our prayer question is “no.” Perhaps divine wisdom has chosen not to grant our “wish” because God knows, better than we do ourselves, what is best for us. It may take a long time for us to realize the wisdom of God’s “no.” Sometimes, when we think God is not answering our prayer, the answer may be, “Not yet…later.”

Perhaps while we wait for that answer, we are learning a valuable lesson in patience. We can be sure that God does hear our prayers. God rejoices with us, and understands our uncertainties. God weeps with us. God will guide us in our spiritual journey, every step of the way.

Prayer for Peace
Faithful God, we know you are listening to our prayers. We know you weep with us when our hearts break. We know you rejoice in our faithfulness and in our sharing of Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Chalice Prayer
The chalice prayer is a form of intercession. Create a cup or chalice with your hands in front of your heart. Open your heart to God’s concern for the Earth and human family as you hold them in your chalice. See beauty and suffering as you lift the chalice and release the creation (open hands) to be blessed and healed by God. Form the chalice again and hold persons who have particular needs—friends, loved ones, even enemies. Lift them and release them for God’s blessing. Place yourself inside the chalice as you confess your deepest needs. Lift and release yourself to God for healing. “Thank you and amen.”

Peace Covenant
Faithful God, I will pray always. I will not lose heart.

A Healthy Dose of Grace

2-8By Janné Grover of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA  

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

—Galatians 5:22–23

I am constantly amazed at how much I learn from the ones I am most trying to help shape and nurture. I wish I could say that these lessons come in quiet and intimate moments I lovingly share with my kids. However I am humbled to admit they usually reach me when I’m at anything but my best.

Such is the lesson of grace….

During the craziness of getting a young family ready for bed, we try to wind down from a busy day, yet the kids rev up as we get closer to bedtime. Coupled with tired parents it makes for some frustrating times.

One night I had reached the end of my sometimes-short fuse. I allowed my angry self to replace my patient self. As a result, I let my kids know how I was feeling—in a way that was much less than loving and nurturing. I stepped back, put myself in check, and we had a conversation about why I acted with frustration. We talked about how I ought to have reacted.

One of my kids responded, “We understand, Mom, and we still think you are the best mom ever.” Although I felt like the worst mom ever, I responded by saying, “You are God’s grace to me.”

I recognize how frustrated God must feel sometimes, but I know personally how it feels to experience God’s presence and grace in our ordinary daily routine. Dr. Mom recommends a healthy dose of grace. Good medicine.

Prayer for Peace
Patient God, may we be gentle and patient, too. May we learn from those who share grace that it comes from you. We need this remedy most, when we are overcome and frustrated, so we can share this grace and peace with others.

Spiritual Practice: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart
Open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breathing slow and deepen. Be aware of God’s breath moving in and out of your heart. Spend several minutes focusing on breathing in God’s generosity. With each breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. Let your heart expand to contain God’s gracious outpouring. With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will extend my self-control fuse to a gentler length.

Journey in Trust

By Heather Varner of Independence, Missouri, USA

Lift up your eyes and fix them on the place beyond the horizon to which you are sent. Journey in trust, assured that the great and marvelous work is for this time and for all time.  Doctrine and Covenants 161:1a

God has accompanied me on a journey of patience and trust. My husband, Matt, and I had been married a couple of years and were ready to have a child. We thought within a year or so we would have a little bundle of joy. But after four years, it was still just the two of us.

We visited several doctors, including a specialist. There were tests, medicine, and procedures—but still no baby. I was confused, depressed, even angry with God. Why weren’t we allowed to become parents? What had I done wrong? Did God hear my prayers for a child? It seemed other couples had children so easily. It wasn’t fair.

Over time, my anger and frustration toward God lessened. Maybe we should choose a different way to bring children into our family. Certain that God must have a child for us somewhere, we began to explore adoption.

Then one day I was driving home from work. I looked at the blue sky and saw a white bird. It seemed to be circling over my car, following me, gliding on the breeze. Seeing the bird gave me a sense of peace, as if God was telling me everything was going to be fine. A few weeks later the doctor confirmed my pregnancy, and in 2009 I gave birth to our precious Emily Rose.

Through all this, I remain assured that God is always present—in our joys and in our sorrows. However life turns out, with patience and trust, I believe we can find goodness in God’s grace. Lift up your eyes and journey in trust.

Prayer for Peace:

Co-creator God, give us faith for the journey. We thank you for our families. We thank you for sending your son to be our Prince of Peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Joy of Gratitude

Stand, if possible, with arms outstretched. Imagine God filling your arms with all that you have: family, friends, and possessions. Hold out your arms until they feel tired. Now, bring your arms across your body. Place your hand over your heart and thank God for the abundance that fills your life. Sit for a time aware of that abundance. Then ask God to help you open your heart in gratitude and share freely with others in deepest gratitude.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will lift my eyes to you in faith.