A House Becomes a Home

Monday, November 10

11-10By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA

“Humble yourselves, and continue in prayer to God; cry to God when you are in your fields, and over all your flocks; cry to God in your houses, and over all your household, morning, midday, and evening. …And when you do not cry to the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer to God continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.”

—Alma 16:219, 222, adapted

A severe storm badly damaged my house. I had to move out and put it on the market “as is.” A year later it still had not sold. We made ready to tear the house down and sell the lot. But prayers and a phone call changed events. It was from a woman who bought old houses and made them habitable again. She told me an interesting story.

As she drove down my street, she saw the vacant house, but it did not capture her imagination. She continued, “A powerful Spirit pulled my car into the driveway. Nothing like that ever had happened to me before.” The potential buyer stepped inside the unlocked house. Somehow, her feeling of attraction and the house’s appearance did not match.

She saw that beneath the damage skilled handiwork displayed itself throughout the house. She determined that without major changes, she could renovate it and make it ready for resale. The caller went on, “What struck me, though, was the Spirit that I felt inside the home. I felt comfortable there.”

I shared some of the house’s history with her—that my husband and I dedicated the house to God. We raised our children and grandchildren there. It also served as a safe playground for two generations of neighboring children. In the quiet moments that followed she came to understand.

Two weeks later we met and completed the transaction. We felt the settlement was fair to both of us. Surely the Lord had sent this kind stranger to bless me. I have faith that God continues to bless her and those who find sanctuary in their new home.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, we have faith in your listening ear. When we forget to pray, nudge us with your gentle elbow. When we remember, enfold us in your peaceful arms.

Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in your choices. Discernment invites us to orient our lives toward God and God’s vision for us and creation. Begin by reviewing the responsibilities and opportunities in the day before you. Take these choices into prayer, asking God for wisdom and insight about what matters most.

Offer yourself to God with the prayer of Teresa of Avila: “God, what do you want of me today?” Sit prayerfully with this question as you review the day again. Be aware of images, thoughts, names, or actions that come to you. Ask for a blessing to live this day responsibly and compassionately in the Spirit of Christ.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will listen and respond morning, midday, and evening.

Shalom Place: Spiritual Practice at IYF, 2014

Friday, August 29

8-29aBy Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of Wickliffe, Ohio, USA

Be still, and know that I am God!

—Psalm 46:10 NRSV

Three teenage girls moved attentively and reverently through the spiritual practice stations in Shalom Place during the International Youth Forum (IYF) at the Temple in Independence, Missouri. They did not chatter, but participated, eager, in each practice invitation. I watched them deliberately tie knots into string and then run their fingers slowly over it as they engaged in a form of the examen practice. It seemed like they were searching for something, and they were doing it together. With the murmur of activity just outside, something of Spirit drew them into this quiet, still place.

I held each of them in prayer. I was curious about the experience they were having. I wondered what these moments at IYF would mean in their spiritual development as disciples of Jesus Christ. How was the Spirit forming within them in that very moment as they held string in their fingers and bowed their heads in prayer?

I glanced over at the Expressions of God wall and smiled at the phrase someone had written, “She’s awesome!” I noticed electric candles flickering at the Holding in the Light station and prayer request cards in the basket. Each day I read the concerns and held them in the light of God’s healing love. Staff and campers shared issues of identity, health, relationships, and desire for God-connection. I am in awe at the ways our lives come together in these shared sacred spaces—untold stories and concerns and hopes intermingling as vulnerability beckons.

All week at IYF in Independence, Missouri, Shalom Place served as a space of prayer, practice, and rest. I was impressed by the responsiveness of those who volunteered as a presence to our youth during this transformational experience in their lives. People responded as though being available to our youth and holding them in prayer was a sacred privilege. They generously offered their time and prayer to the youth and staff that came in seeking God in the form of a new practice, a moment of silence, or the yearning for a deeper conversation. Words of blessing from evangelists hung around the room embracing the youth in a spirit of love and care. People from nearby and far away, sent beautiful words of support and guidance, and held our youth in prayer.

I am grateful to the IYF team for making spiritual practice a priority by designating this space. My prayer is that this time in the life of our youth will continue to awaken them to the God who is always present and inviting them to experience and live Christ’s peace.

Prayer for Peace Listening God, we whisper, and you hear us. We cry out in pain, and you hear us. We sit in lonely silence, and you hear us. We praise you with thankful hearts, and you hear us. Hear our answer to your call for peace, “Here I am, send me.”

Spiritual Practice: Prayer of Examen Spend a few moments recalling your day. If it is morning, recall yesterday. Let all the details, events, and conversations drift through your memory. Offer gratitude for the day and pray that you might be aware of how God was present with you. What did you notice or feel that brought meaning? As you review your day, pay attention to the times you could have been more Christ-like. Offer a prayer of confession, seeking forgiveness for the times you were unaware or potentially caused harm to yourself, others, or creation. Pay attention to the moments your life was in harmony with God’s vision for creation. Pray that you will be even more aware the next day of God’s presence with you and opportunities to respond to that presence. Amen.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will ask local IYF attendees to tell their stories, and I will listen. Or go to the church’s website and see the photo gallery at http://www.cofchrist.org/iyf/.

God Knows the Words

Friday, August 8

8-8By Vera Entwistle of Eugene, Oregan, USA

…pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

—2 Timothy 2:22 NRSV

I was visiting with a friend who was preparing for baptism the next day. She shared her concerns that she felt she did not word her prayers properly. She said, “I am not good at praying.” As she spoke I thought of a story I had heard recently and I shared it with her.

Peeping through her little boy’s bedroom door, a mother saw him kneeling by his bed. However, what she heard puzzled her. He said, “A, b, c, d, e, f, g….” She tiptoed into the room and asked what he was doing. “I’m saying my prayers. I am so tired tonight I just can’t think of the words, so I am just telling God all the letters. God knows what I need and he can put the words together for me.”

This story eased my friend’s concerns. For most of us there will come times of great need or stress when we do not know what to say. We feel our prayers are inadequate. Perhaps it is enough for us to be still and call on God to accept the love and trust expressed in our silence.

Prayer for Peace Dear God, a…b…c…

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 have faith that you know the desires in my heart, even before I speak.

I Close My Eyes…

Tuesday, July 29

7-29By 14-year-old Rachel Huerkamp of Delta, Colorado

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you…to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

—Romans 12:1–5 NRSV

I close my eyes and lock my hands. I pray away my sorry day and end it with the hope of tomorrow. With the dreams that follow me to sleep, I see my life of faith carved by mistakes, wisdom, and my surroundings. With these, the Divine helps me learn and choose the person I will be.

I will be a person who makes a change. I will not fear change, but absorb and embrace it. I will be the person who not only seeks change, but is part of creating change. I will choose change. I will be a person who makes a difference in the world God has created for us.

I will trust God’s call and praise God for lessons learned. The result of my response will reflect what I put into it.

With my eyes shut and my hands together, I lift everything that I am to you, O God. Know my faith is genuine—so you may cleanse my heart, soul, and mind. Help me on the path of life to finish the race at home with you.

Prayer for Peace Creator, God, shape us with the breath of your Spirit. Help us respond to our experiences with faith and generosity, willing to change what needs changing; willing to accept the shape that is good and acceptable to you.

Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in your choices. Discernment invites us to orient our lives toward God and God’s vision for us and creation. Begin by reviewing the responsibilities and opportunities in the day before you. Take these choices into prayer, asking God for wisdom and insight about what matters most.

Offer yourself to God with the prayer of Teresa of Avila: “God, what do you want of me today?” Sit prayerfully with this question as you review the day again. Be aware of images, thoughts, names, or actions that come to you. Ask for a blessing to live this day responsibly and compassionately in the Spirit of Christ.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I choose to be a person who will share Christ’s peace.

The Heavens Proclaim a Moment

Thursday, June 12

6-12By Cindy L. Korf of North Platte, Nebraska, USA

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. …Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

—Psalm 19:1, 14 NRSV

When I switched jobs, I had to arrive at work an hour earlier. This hour had been used for my morning prayer time and sunrise walk. I would sorely miss this hour, so I took it to God in a necessarily short prayer.

Soon after that, I arrived at work, parked the car, and hurried to cross the street. A traffic light stopped me. It was then, forced to halt and face the eastern sky, I beheld the rising sun. It lit the sky in brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. I paused for an expanded moment, gazing on the beautiful sunrise, praising and thanking God.

Truly, God hears our prayers and proclaims the moment a prayer comes from our hearts. The sun rises daily; therefore, I believe…our prayers will rise daily, as well.

Prayer for Peace God of the sunrise and the clouds that reflect its brilliant colors, we thank you for the inspiration to commune with you. Help us be aware that these moments are always with us, to open like a gift, and to listen to their message of peace.

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, I will use any spare moments as prayer moments.

Make Us One

6-1

Sunday, June 1

By Art Smith, Council of Twelve Apostles

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

—John 17:11 NRSV

The old van with 100,000 miles plus had been breaking down recently, even on short trips. The list of licensed drivers able to help was down to one name. Three days before the Southern Cone of South America Mission Center Conference in Monte Caseros, Argentina, Seventy Gustavo Vergara (the only remaining driver) and I, then mission center president, started the day on the phone.

It seemed unwise to use the van. The Andes Mountains, 2,200 kilometers, and a solid 26 hours of driving stood between Santiago, Chile, and the destination. Brother Gustavo went to the bus station to find the price and itinerary available for Plan B. Budget limits and the shift to Plan B would mean reducing the number of delegates from eight to two!

Then, however, we discovered eight people had arrived safely in the early hours of the morning, just in time for the conference. What had happened? How did they decide to risk the van trip? Everyone was looking forward to this conference as a time of reconciliation. Members saw it as a fresh start between two countries that had known conflict in one mission center. A wonderful spirit of unity blessed the conference. For that one weekend there was an answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity in the church.

Prayer for Peace Weave us together, God, in unity and love. Help us build bridges where once there were deep chasms. Help us open closed doors between people. Help us pass peace to our neighbors in faraway places.

Spiritual Practice: Welcoming Unity in Diversity Meditate on Unity in Diversity. Create a large circle with your arms. See and feel the diverse people God invites inside the sanctuary of Christ’s peace represented by this circle.

Who is easiest to welcome? Whom do you struggle to include? Confess the dividing walls between you and people too different or “dangerous” to invite into your spiritual home. Ask God to forgive and heal barriers that keep us from loving one another.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will create unity where there once was division.

Flood of Community Response

Monday, May 26

5-26By Evelyn Spence of Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA

“Humble yourselves and continue in prayer to him; cry to him when you are in your fields, and over all your flocks; cry to him in your houses, and over all your household, morning, midday, and evening…And when you do not cry to the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer to him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.”

—Alma 16:219, 222

Our city did not experience an EF5 tornado, a hurricane, or a tsunami. Instead, we fought record-high Missouri River water. Devastating floods hit north and south of our home. Our interstate highway flooded and closed, as did other major roads. For an extended time, some people traveled long detours to get to work.

Floods cause more damage when water stays for a month or six weeks. This wasn’t just a flash flood. The high water level for such a long time devastated the people affected. We knew some, and our hearts broke for them.

In Council Bluffs, a pall settled over us as the danger became imminent. At least half of the city is in a floodplain. Residents sandbagged businesses and houses. The city officials enlisted civilians and the National Guard to help patrol the many miles of levee next to the river and two large drainage creeks. They placed pumps at danger points to send seeping water back into the river.

In the lowest area of our town, seeping water caused basements to collapse, making houses unlivable. Recreation trails closed because they were atop levees. The lakes, too, were unusually high and could not support normal water activities.

A different aura permeated the area and people on higher land. We each knew people affected. This was just one place of many in the world suffering the effects of natural disasters. When families lose everything, the loss not only devastates the families, but everyone feels the devastation with them.

I cannot imagine how many prayers were offered. Bearing one another’s burdens, we volunteered at sandbagging efforts and distributed supplies. The community prayed with faith over our households, and we pulled together.

Prayer for Peace Steadfast God, we humbly pray for the families and homes of neighbors and strangers who suffer loss. We know you weep with them and send your Spirit of peace to be with them.

Spiritual Practice: Offering Blessings of Community Receive and share Blessings of Community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the relationships in your life. What blessings flow to you from these circles? How have you felt the love of the community?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will sandbag to hold off danger. If I can’t sandbag, I will feed the sandbaggers. If I can’t bring food, I will pray for them.

Raised to New Life

Sunday, April 6

4-6aBy Dennis Aldridge of Eardisley, Herefordshire, UK

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

—John 11:32–34

I collapsed from a heart attack and (according to the doctors) a stroke at the same time. My wife, who has supported me throughout, rang for the ambulance that took me to hospital, where I stayed for some time. I prayed, and others prayed for me. I asked for the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick, which I received with a rich presence of the Spirit.

A month later doctors diagnosed me with two kinds of cancer. I had chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and goodness knows what else! Again, the Spirit led me to ask for laying on of hands for the sick. The Spirit moved Barrie Fox and Andrew Bolton to come to our home from the British Isles Reunion to pray for me. This deeply touched me!

I have prayed for the sick—and been blessed. But I never have known a prayer like the simple one Andrew offered. I am still here more than two years later. This healing comfort raised me to a new kind of life—grateful to my Christ, who sent his disciples to “come and see” one who needed Christ’s healing touch.

I tried to express how I felt with the following poem:

I can sing my song of healing, yes, sing it anywhere
And I sing it with new feeling, and to a joyous air!
For God has made me whole again in answer to my prayer,
And I have now no doubts or pain and am no longer sad.
God’s Spirit came and made me well.
Yes, God has made me glad!

Prayer for Peace
God who weeps with us, may we be the hands of Jesus, serving in his stead. May we learn to share Christ-like compassion and peace.

Spiritual Practice: Intercessory Reflection and Prayer
Sit quietly with your eyes closed as you enter intercessory reflection and prayer. Ask God to bring persons who need prayer to your mind and heart. Be open to images of the people, and spiritual insight into their needs. Listen for signals from their lives and let the depth of God’s love for them become powerful and real to you. Write, speak, or think a prayer of blessing and healing for these much-loved disciples and friends. Ask God to help you see ways to affirm and support them when you meet them in daily life.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I rejoice that Christ’s compassion and peace is ours to share.

Sitting with Jesus

Monday, March 3

Erica Blevins Nye in “Woman Reaching Out” drama

Erica Blevins Nye in “Woman Reaching Out” drama

By Betty Williams of Mission, British Columbia, Canada

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

—Isaiah 54:10

I am disabled with post-polio symptoms. Many years ago I started to have pain in my spine. Not long ago, my condition progressed, and my doctors told me I had near double scoliosis, bulging disks, wedged and crushed vertebrae. They told me I needed surgery that would require inserting a pole, pins, and bolts into my body. Doctors put me on a narcotic more than five times stronger than morphine. The drug took away my ability to think clearly, but it was either that…or the pain.

While I was being medicated, I had difficulty maintaining my years-long tradition of spending quiet time every afternoon to commune with God. The drug often made me forget what I was doing. Finally, in June I forced myself to stay focused. In my quiet time I imagined Jesus sitting with me. When I felt his presence, I spoke to Jesus saying, “I am the woman who touched the hem of your garment—please heal me. If a total healing is not mine, please, would you at least heal my spine?”

I saw the neurosurgeon later that month. He was puzzled. He ordered additional x-rays. A few months later he ordered more tests and x-rays. He then told me my spine had healed itself, and I did not need any surgery. I told him I knew who had healed my spine.

I am off the narcotics, and I am back! I am so grateful to have learned how to have that quiet time and to know when Jesus is with me and for the comfort with which I am blessed

Prayer for Peace
Compassionate God, hold us in your healing light. Wash us with your Spirit. Sit with us when we pray. Go with us as we share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Praying with a Partner
Pray with a partner if possible, or imagine Christ sitting with you. The heart is a center of compassion and spiritual connection. Stand or sit across from your partner with hands open and palms up. Invite your partner to place his or her hands, palms down, on your hands. Close your eyes and be aware of the connection between your heart and your partner’s heart.

What needs, feelings, or longings do you sense? Invite God’s presence to flow into you and move from your heart to the heart of your partner. Feel or see God’s healing light and love flowing between your hearts. After silent prayer, thank God and your partner. Say amen. (You also may pray this prayer by envisioning a particular person across from you.)

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will find someone who needs a partner to pray with.

Everyday Reminders of Grace

Thursday, January 9

1-9By Michele McGrath of Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA

“…seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.”

—1 Peter 3:11–12

When I was a child, my grandmother passed away, and my grandfather came to live with us. My grandparents had been saving for a trip to Lake Tahoe. A couple of months after my grandmother’s death our reshaped family headed there on vacation.

One day my grandfather insisted on staying in the hotel room and urged the rest of us to continue with our plans. When we returned that afternoon, something was very wrong. We three children were told to go outside and play in the snow.

Time seemed to stretch to infinity while waiting for the ambulance, and finally, we learned of our grandfather’s death. Three minutes seemed like 30, four minutes a lifetime. Today, I cannot hear the siren of an ambulance or any other emergency vehicle without saying a prayer for those people anxiously awaiting its arrival. It has become a moment of everyday grace for me, a reminder that God is with those who desperately wait. God’s ears are open to our prayers.

In Genesis, Noah and his family were promised that ever after rainbows would be reminders of the Sacredness of Creation—the Earth, us and every living creature; each rainbow a reminder of God’s grace.

I have a friend who prays for safe travels every time she hears the click of a seat belt. Another silently thanks God for being trustworthy each time she handles a US coin inscribed with “In God We Trust.” Another is reminded to pray with gratitude for the gift of another day whenever he sees a sunrise. What moment of everyday grace can be a reminder for you today?

Prayer for Peace
Hear our prayers, O God. Remind us of your grace in all of creation. We see your caring presence on every journey, the daily sunrise, and in our everyday actions.

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 of love. With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will look for reminders of your grace, and be thankful.