Excuses…Spilled onto the Floor

Saturday, October 4

10-4By Callie Streich of Independence, Missouri, USA

“…When you are in the service of your companion beings you are only in the service of your God.”

—Mosiah 1:49, adapted

How often do we take a hard look at ourselves? It might be like going into our mind’s cellar, grabbing an old canning jar off the shelf, and beginning to pry open the rusted lid. When that proves too difficult, we put the jar back, next to all the other dusty relics. We save it for another day…when the jar is not so hard to open.

During the summer of 2002, I went to Zambia with an international volunteer program that allows young adults and adults to take part in intercultural experiences. Zambia and all of Africa has a way of finding its way into your heart and soul and setting up camp. I remember the faces, smells, sights, and sounds…all of them are now part of me.

I am lousy with directions. (My husband bought me a global positioning system and joked that if I got lost, it was now a customer-service issue, not his.) However, I can remember my village, those nearby, and how to navigate in and between them.

Of all the events in my life until then, the experiences of that summer are the most vivid. Zambia still tugs at my heart, but I was at a loss for how to reach out.

A source of recent inspiration for me is someone who devotes time to the HealthEd Connect Mentor Program. She works with orphaned children in Zambia. To bring awareness to her work and to raise money, she ran a marathon. I have never been a runner, but I decided I want to run a half marathon (because I’m only half-crazy) to raise money for this amazing program.

HealthEd Connect provides education, counseling, health education, and services that save lives in Zambia, Malawi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nepal. My goal is to raise a specific amount of money. Even if I don’t reach my goal, every bit helps.

In my right hand, in that dank, dark cellar, I hold the jar labeled, “What do I have to offer?” In my left hand is the opened lid…excuses spilled onto the floor.

Prayer for Peace God of wisdom, help us discover in ourselves, a need to reach out to relieve suffering in the world. If we can’t run a marathon, God, help us run half a marathon for peace.

Spiritual Practice: Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Read and reflect on John 21:15–17 as a meditation. Draw your mind to places where people have no homes. Think of refugees whose homes were destroyed by war or natural disaster. Be aware of the hungry and homeless, who wander the streets or live in shelters. Let the images fill your mind. Offer a prayer for those who suffer. Imagine Christ tending those sheep. Think of ways you might end their suffering as part of your mission. Throughout the day, carry in your mind the voice of Christ saying: “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep.”

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will set a goal for supporting a worthy outreach program.

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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.

Don’t Forget the Humble Housekeeper

Tuesday, August 19

8-19By Merna Short of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. …If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

—1 Corinthians 12:12–14, 26–27 NRSV

Those who work in the fabric industry know it is important to keep floors clean of scraps and lint. These are a potential fire hazard. Just a spark would allow a fire to take hold, destroying everything in its path. Imagine the loss in an inferno of fabric, chemicals, and machinery.

In industry, managers, supervisors, and workers are all necessary, yet we often undervalue the humble housekeeper. When cost cutting, the accountant is apt to look at the volume of goods made by the factory and overlook the need for continual cleaning. The cry from those who produce the goods is, “Don’t fire the ones who clean!”

Jesus can’t do without his leaders and workers in the church, either. Many people give noticeable, public ministry and are a blessing. There are also those who work diligently and quietly in the background. How grateful we are that they are always serving. They are an unheralded blessing for Christ’s mission.

Seeing these faithful servants reminds me of how much we need them. I again become aware that as the body of Christ we cannot say of any part, “I have no need of you.” We are all are called to serve the children of God.

Prayer for Peace Universal God, help us look beyond the seemingly “unimportant” positions and see the humble servants. Help us see and know of how much worth they are to all. We would suffer without them. Help us bridge the gap of imagined worthiness by 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 recognize and value the call of each person.

When the Spirit Says, “Go”…GO!

Tuesday, June 3

6-3By Dennis Aldridge of Eardisley, Hereford, England

If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

—Isaiah 58:10–11 NRSV

When I was a young man, recently married, I lived in Bradford in Yorkshire, England. My wife worked in town at Central Library. She used to work some Saturday mornings and then have the afternoon off. One Saturday, I decided to meet her at the library so we could have the rest of the day together in town.

Bradford is in a basin—you walk downhill into it. We did not have a car, and rather than taking the bus into town, I walked. For a reason I don’t remember, I walked an unusual route. I was a young man, dressed in his finery, walking toward town through one of Bradford’s poorer areas.

As I walked down the hill, I saw an elderly woman coming up toward me, pushing a disabled man in a wheelchair. She struggled on the hill. They were dressed poorly, their clothes dirty and tattered. As I passed them, the Spirit said to me, “You could help!”

I did not want to. In my smart clothes, I felt I stood out from those around me, and I was painfully shy. However, the Spirit said, “Help them!”

“May I help you?” I said, and took over pushing the wheelchair. To my dismay the couple made much of what I was doing as I pushed the chair up the hill. They called to all who could hear, “Look at us!” It was clear they were well-known in the neighborhood. People came to their doorways to see about the hullabaloo. I nearly died of embarrassment. I got them safely to their home and then fled to meet my wife.

I have remembered that encounter for more than 50 years. When the Spirit tells you what to do, it’s a good idea to do it.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, help us see all people as worthy and lovable. Help us look past what may be unpleasant, to souls that long to know you. May we be instruments of Christ’s mission.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has for you and for 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 are you invited 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 others as you see them. I will not feel uneasy to serve.

Stop “Showing up” at Church

Saturday, May 17

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

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

—Mark 12:38–40, 43 NRSV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I dare you to stop just showing up at church.

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

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

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

Called to Serve

Sunday, January 19

Susan Oxley

Susan Oxley

By Susan Oxley, Council of Twelve Apostles

Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. …And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

—Isaiah 49:1, 3

I chose baptism into Community of Christ when I was 8 years old, but I grew up in the US Air Force Chapel program on military bases around the world. When I was 18, I had encountered many world religions. I had decided never to join a church, but simply be a nondenominational Christian, following the teachings of Jesus to the best of my ability.

When I was 18, I joined the Liahona group at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I began exploring this church that my mother and grandmother held dear, and I joined a seeker’s group.

One evening, in the middle of a discussion about Christ’s crucifixion, I had a transforming experience with the Risen Christ. I heard no words, but somehow I knew this was the church in which I could best serve God. Through the years, God has continued to expand my ministry and service.

At a women’s convention in Seattle, Washington, three young women expressed surprise that I am an ordained minister. They were skeptical of religion but eager to make a difference in the world. They had explored denominations that barred women from ministry, and they spoke of their longing to serve.

Although they did not commit to looking into my church, they were open to hearing about it. As the conversation ended, I gave them one last thought to ponder. “Keep searching. Come check us out. When you find the place where you can best serve, you are home.”

Prayer for Peace
Lord of calling and sending, send me. I would serve you, not for my own glory but for yours. Guide me in the paths that lead to wider service. Place before me those whom you would have me serve—those with whom you would have me 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, 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 ponder my roots and consider my service anew.

The Upward Trail

Tuesday, January 14

Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Paris

Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Paris

By Glenn Johnson of Covina, California, USA

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

—2 Timothy 2:22

Working on a six-month project in France, I had managed to see most of Paris’ beautiful landmarks. Nearing the end of my assignment, I realized I still had not visited the Sacré-Cœur.

I walked narrow streets lined with multistory apartments. The travertine domes and spires of the city disappeared from view. I pressed on, keeping my goal in mind and walking higher and higher. I climbed countless steps, breathing heavily, continuing steadily toward my goal.

Finally reaching the top, I made my way into the basilica. It was beautiful—well worth the climb. But not until I walked outside through the three-arched portico, did I behold the most beautiful sight of all: It was Paris, seen from the highest point in the city.

Sometimes we forget that God calls us to serve right where we are, in our time and place. In moments of enlightenment, we come to see our present condition with new eyes, from a different point of view. We recognize the beauty in all those around us and appreciate ever more deeply our opportunities to serve.

Prayer for Peace
We need not climb a mountain, God, to find you. You are here with us in the city, on the farm, at work, and at play. These are all places we can share the peace and sacred heart 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 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 look for places to serve, right under my nose.

These Are My Disciples

Thursday, November 21

11-21By Gary McDonald of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

—Psalm 85:8, 11, 13

I am sitting quietly in church when the Holy Spirit becomes visible through the loving actions of those around me. An elderly gentleman in our congregation named Dean, decides to part with a treasured possession, an antique Boy Scout knife he has owned for over 60 years. He gives it to a young man honored as an Eagle Scout. A grandmother named Wanda shares how her granddaughter likes our church because we think she’s beautiful. A priesthood member walks over to visit with a frail, elderly woman and gives her a kind hug.

But it doesn’t stop there. A man stands to sing a touching song during worship and it brings tears. Our speaker of the morning apologizes. She is under medication that dries out her mouth. Someone in the congregation provides her with a cup of water. Our granddaughter attends church because it is here she finds love and acceptance.

Our Enduring Principles capture all of these actions. They are voluntary. They come from the hearts of those who turn to God. I am humbled and my heart is full.

There are times when my critical, cynical nature takes these people to task. Sometimes these moments are private and other times public. Unkindly I have privately criticized them for being “unspiritual.” Now I must take my words back and confess I know nothing about them or about what it takes “to be a spiritual people.” Yet, I am forgiven. God knows Christ’s disciples, and moves among them.

Prayer for Peace
All-knowing God, we turn our hearts to you. We know your Spirit speaks to us. We see you in the Christ-like actions of the community. We feel humble. Allow us to be disciples who share the peace of 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. When you are thirsty, dry, empty, listen 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 recognize Christ in peaceful actions.

♫ Hymn of the Month: A Favorite Hymn Carried Forward

Monday, November 11

11-11By Lauren Hall of Kansas City, 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.

—Doctrine and Covenants 161:7

I have always loved the hymn “Touch Me, Lord, with Thy Spirit Eternal” (Hymns of the Saints 409). The sincere longing and constant companionship of the Holy Spirit is timeless. It is personal and invitational. The Russian melody makes the hymn even more evocative.

At the time I write this, this hymn speaks to me for another reason. I used to have frequent conversations with my friend, Roy Schafer, about two hymns being in the next hymnal. This was one of them. We shared a mutual love for the beautiful melody and text: “stir my soul… take my love… hear my prayer.” “Teach me…fill me” and “I shall serve thee with all of my soul.” We discovered we both used this text in our personal spiritual practices. As followers of Jesus, it was our response to the other hymn that was also special to us, “Jesus Loves Me.”

And, as Roy would say, “The Good News doesn’t get any more complicated than that!”

Touch me, Lord, with thy Spirit eternal;
Stir my soul to respond to thy call.
Take my love, for I offer it freely;
Hear my prayer as I thank thee for all.
Hear my prayer as I thank thee for all.

Teach me, Lord, to walk humbly before thee;
May I hasten thy will to obey.
Make me wise to see clearly thy purpose;
Keep me true to my calling, I pray.
Keep me true to my calling, I pray.

Fill me, Lord, with thine infinite power;
Make me firm, make me pure, make me whole.
With thy Spirit to strengthen and guide me,
I shall serve thee with all of my soul.
I shall serve thee with all of my soul.

—R. Romanov

Prayer for Peace
Hear our prayer, Lord, as we thank thee for all.

Spiritual Practice
Contemplate this hymn as a prayer or poem, or sing it to the tune Russian Melody.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will allow my soul to be stirred by your Spirit as I seek to respond to what matters most.

Serve God

Sunday, September 22

9-22By Robert Adie of Kisumu, Kenya

No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

—Luke 16:13

Many years ago in my village in Kenya I and my wife visited an old woman who was living alone in her small two-room house. When we approached the door I called to inquire whether there was someone in the house or not. There was no response and the door was a half opened. When we entered in and I made a second call and she responded with low deep voice, “enter, am not feeling well.”

When we entered the bedroom which was dark without proper ventilation, we called her by name and she recognized my voice. “Karibu, my son” (this is a Swahili word for welcome). The smell was not pleasant. I opened the window and went closer to the bed to hold her hands and listen to her.

When I approached the bed I saw very may bed bugs trying to hide in the beddings. I prayed for courage and found myself having to take a deep breath. Without thinking I managed to get her out of bed and carry her outside to bask in God’s sunlight. When now my wife and I look at her, we realize that she could not go back to that bed without our further action.

As my wife continued to talk to her about Christ who she knew very much about I went in to remove the bed and all the beddings outside to the sun. My wife took charge of the mattress, sheets and blankets and cleaned with soap and water and placed them on the shrubs for the sun to dry them. I went to the house and clean the entire place with insecticide powder leaving no chance for the bed bugs to live.

When we finished the works and went back to her, she told us that she has been sick for a week and nobody has gone to see her. On the night after our visit, she felt that Christ promised that she would get well. We prepared food for her and my wife bathed her and she got healed. She told us how she had a good peaceful sleep and she offered a blessing prayer. She testified this to everybody she met. She always encouraged us to do good to everybody in need. I felt I had met a challenge as part of my walk with Christ. I felt I had served my God.

Prayer for Peace
Tender Shepherd, may we work to serve Christ’s mission of compassion.

Spiritual Practice: Abolish Poverty, End Suffering
Read and reflect on John 21:15–17 as a meditation. Let your mind be drawn to places where people have no homes. Be aware of the insufferable conditions of poverty. Let the images fill your mind. Imagine Christ tending those sheep. Think of ways you might end their suffering as part of your mission. Throughout the day, hear the voice of Christ saying: “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will not be repulsed by poverty’s infestations, but will bring them into your healing light.