Blessed amid Difficulty

Saturday, September 27

Four Hands Joined TogetherBy Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. …When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.

—Psalm 34:15, 17 NRSV

When my son was fighting leukemia, drawing his bone-marrow was such a painful experience for him. He needed me to be right there, even though he was 25, and a parent himself. At first I tried holding his hands during the procedure, but he was too strong and nearly broke my fingers. So then I started massaging his scalp during the process as I prayed.

While I prayed, I imagined the hands of all our family and friends—I felt the whole church community had their hands right next to mine, providing love and support. It was a comfort to Zac, but so much more for me. It was something I could do. It helped take away some of the helplessness I felt. We lost him to the disease, but I could at least do something while he was with us!

Prayer for Peace Compassionate God, open us to the many blessings you desire for us. Help us be receptive to your healing love. Help us share your love and the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice: Voices of God What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for shalom; God’s dream of healing and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling to us in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter? When and how has God’s voice spoken to you? How does the assurance of comfort come to you through the many “voices” of God?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will listen for your healing words and not feel helpless as someone suffers.

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God is Among US

Sunday, September 7

9-7aBy Janné Grover of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

—Matthew 18:20 NRSV

Community is complicated and amazing. It can be a source of great healing and blessing, nurture and support. It also can be a source of tension and angst, hurt feelings and disagreements.

As members of the family of God, we belong to and are responsible for one another. It is true that we often hurt, and are hurt by, those with whom we feel closest. What is amazing about true and sacred community is not the absence of conflict and pain, but how we engage with one another to address and resolve such issues.

If Christ is truly among us, then we find ourselves living the sometimes-difficult disciple practice of shared experiences in community. In Christian community we risk relationships with people who differ from us in many ways. Celebrating and learning from the differences frees us from isolation and individualism to joy and Blessings of Community.

I grew up feeling I had to be perfect. My parents seemed perfect, and the outward appearance of our family seemed perfect. I was imperfect. What I have come to learn is true family community is not about being perfect, but loving one another despite our imperfections.

Such is the case in any community, where two or three gather in the name of Christ. We do not have to put on masks of perfection to be part of community. We need to be vulnerable to grace by being vulnerable to one another and by committing to love one another in and through the reality of true community.

Prayer for Peace Ever-present God, we call for you when we are burdened. Forgive us for not trusting that you already are with us. May we be aware you are near and share the peace of your presence.

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 or other images that might come. Ask to be made aware of God’s love. Listen to the ways in which God wants to flow from your heart.

Peace Covenant Today, God, when I am among community, I will be with you.

Have Faith!

Sunday, August 10

8-10By Richard James, Council of Twelve Apostles

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” …And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

—Matthew 14:28–31, 33 NRSV

As we try to encourage our grandson to take his first few steps, it is heart-warming to see the support of family and hear words of encouragement. We are there to hold him, catch him, and applaud his efforts, until the moment that he takes two or three faltering steps. Then there is no stopping him! What a remarkable step in his development. He did it! He can walk “all by himself.”

When Peter is thinking about taking his first step onto the water, it is Jesus’ encouraging word, “Come,” that helps him. Fixing his eyes on Jesus, Peter makes some progress. But, as the strong wind distracts him, he begins to be afraid and starts to sink. He cries in desperation. Jesus reaches out and catches him. Then they get back into the boat.

Is our action similar to Jesus’ when we help our grandson learn to walk? “Come,” we say, and we are there ready to catch him whenever he starts to fall. We know that with perseverance and encouragement he will make the life-changing steps.

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not easy. We need to help each other learn to walk “the way” of Jesus. By holding each other in prayer, support, and accountability, we encourage one another. We fix our eyes on Jesus. If we fall, we trust that Jesus and our companion disciples are there for us.

Discipleship is about taking steps of faith. We never stop learning. At first we may take small steps, and then we learn how to trust God more. So what “life-changing” steps of faith can you take today? What life-changing steps of faith are you taking for the mission of Jesus Christ? Jesus says to you, “Come.”

Prayer for Peace Faithful God, you are there for us when we falter. You encourage us to try to have faith. Help us encourage others. Journey by our side, God, as we take steps for the mission of Christ.

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 journey in faith and encourage others to have faith.

A Hug for the Road

Saturday, August 9

8-9By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA

Generously share the invitation, ministries, and sacraments through which people can encounter the Living Christ who heals and reconciles through redemptive relationships in sacred community. The restoring of persons to healthy or righteous relationships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey as a people of faith.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b

Just how does mission begin? For me, it recently began at the dinner table. After church we gathered in the friendship hall for lunch and visiting. I greeted a woman sitting alone, and I set my plate next to hers. Her eyes were red from crying, and she looked sad. I asked, “May I give you a hug?” I asked her if she wanted to talk after lunch. She nodded yes.

Another elder and I took Julie to a quiet room where we could talk. Her first words were “Your hug is the best feeling I’ve had all day.” I quickly gave her another. Julie sobbed out her story to us. She felt helpless as she suffered through life on a meager income.

Her body was thin, and she was still losing weight. She needed medical help but could not afford it. Besides that, she was caring for her grandchildren. When her emotions subsided, the other elder and I promised our support. We told her of our congregation’s well-stocked pantry and a network of agencies that also could help. We assured her our congregation offered community and worship, including the sacraments.

We explained the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick. Julie asked that we present her to the Lord for a blessing of wholeness. The calmness of her spirit and hope in her face testified that she felt God’s healing touch.

At the end of our visit, we promised Julie we would journey with her as long as she wanted us to. We parted with another hug. This opportunity to serve reminds me that even if our deeds seem small, they may be the best ministry that happens all day to a hurting soul. Small deeds can start us on a mission to end suffering.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, help us reach out to people who need the touch of community. Make us watchful and aware of loneliness and need. May we respond to the need for 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 look into the eyes of your people, and respond to their tears.

The “Passersby” Passed Me Not

Thursday, August 7

8-7By Janné Grover of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

…“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than this.

—Mark 12:31, adapted NRSV

It is startling how God’s richest blessings come through the most unlikely circumstances.

A car accident, resulting from the poor judgment of another driver, sent me to the hospital. Thankfully, my injuries were minor, and all will heal with time. It would be easy to focus my energy on anger and frustration over the discomfort, inconvenience, and financial burden. Instead, the outpouring of God’s healing and peace claimed my attention. Ordinary and loving people responded in simple, yet-thoughtful ways.

The passersby—some I will never know—stood by me and offered comfort with the assurance that help was on the way, and I would be OK. The emergency and medical professionals acted with care and efficiency. Love was there in my parents who offered comfort and healing through presence and the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick. Love was there in my family, which offered support and mobilized to care for our kids. It was there in the ministry of presence and prayers from those who visited me in the hospital.

The cards, flowers, food, calls, visits, e-mails from around the world, were all expressions of loving support from friends, neighbors, and community. Most significantly, I saw love in the grace and reconciliation extended by my husband to the other driver. All were tangible expressions of God’s love and the healing peace of Jesus Christ in action.

I realize God does not cause or prevent wrecks. However, God’s blessings pour in full measure, if we are vulnerable to the generosity of others. Love wins…how marvelous!

Prayer for Peace Loving God, thank you for ordinary, everyday heroes and heroines, who reveal your love through their response to the needs of family, neighbors, and strangers. May it also be our response to Christ’s mission, to share his 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 respond to the needs of neighbor and stranger alike.

Gather ’Round the Dogwood

Monday, July 21

7-21By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

—John 15:4–5, 7 NRSV

A small pile of tree trimmings outside the main lodge became a parable. Not wanting a single harbinger of spring to go to waste, the campground manager gathered a huge bouquet of blossoming dogwood branches for the dining room. We drank in their beauty each time we passed the table.

Early in the week we gathered there for an evening meal. As we did, a disturbing phone call told us of a terrible car accident. The parents were in line with us, and we shared their concern. The accident seriously injured several members of their family, including small children. This was all the information we had at the moment.

Each one in the room formed a circle of support as we petitioned God to bless the injured parents, grandparents, and small children. Love and concern flowed from heart to heart, and tears wet our cheeks. We waited for more information.

In the hours ahead, encouraging news trickled in. Though the injuries were serious, none was life-threatening. In time, each one would recover. Hope and assurance of God’s love permeated the entire reunion. With one heart and one mind we celebrated the blessings and mercy of God to us.

Together we clung to the giver of life with all of our might, mind, and strength. Like the broken dogwood branches revived in the fresh water, the living water of Jesus Christ restored us.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, help us center our being in the path beside the Living Water. Let it flow over us as we accept the mission to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Vessel for Living Water Imagine 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 bucket to share with someone, but as you reach inside you find only a tiny pool of stagnant liquid. You are thirsty, dry, empty. Then something clear and cool begins to pour over you. It splashes and tumbles into the vessel, filling it to the brim. The living water of Christ pours on and in you. Your vessel fills and runs over, blessing your body and soul. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving and commitment to share living water with others.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will share from the overflow of the Living Water.

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.

Tornado Site

Saturday, May 24

5-24By Kendra Friend of Independence, Missouri, USA

He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth; he makes lightnings for the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses…and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel. Your name, O Lord, endures forever, your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. For the Lord will vindicate his people, and have compassion on his servants.

—Psalm 135:7, 12–14 NRSV

On May 22, 2011, a devastating tornado struck Joplin, Missouri. The death toll was 160, with 1,000 injured. We prayed for the affected families. Members of the Joplin Congregation in Missouri were accounted for after the tornado. Some suffered minor injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, and bruises, but no serious injuries.

Several families lost homes and businesses. The World Church provided funds for meals, bottled water, and shelter. Opportunities for worship were available to help in the healing.

South Central States USA Mission Center President Karen Tillery said, “Thank you for the ministry you shared with those affected by the disaster. I feel such peace, knowing our church family around the world is praying for everyone concerned.”

Because of your continuing contributions to the Abolish Poverty, End Suffering Mission Initiative, Community of Christ has the ability to respond as an international church in times of crisis to provide support and relief in difficult situations. Thank you for responding compassionately and generously.

Prayer for Peace Compassionate God, we thank you for disciples who respond to those in crisis. Thank you for the comfort of their prayers. When we hear of urgent need, may we add tangible aid to our prayers and share from our abundance.

Spiritual Practice: Psalm Writing The psalms are prayers of honesty and trust. The psalmist trusts God’s presence in times of fear and failure, joy and plenty, growth and change. Write a short psalm-prayer expressing to God the truth about your physical, emotional, and spiritual state. What are your deepest feelings, longings, and needs? What prayer of praise, intercession, or petition flows from you as you consider your life and the life of God’s world?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will not wait for disaster to occur before sharing tangible love.

Break Bread Together

May 4, 2014

5-4By Rick Maupin, Council of Twelve Apostles

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

—Luke 24:13–16 NRSV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Message of Reconciliation

Thursday, March 27

3-27By Dianna Vanderkarr of Charlotte, Michigan, USA
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

—2 Corinthians 5:18–19

I sit on a quiet morning, reflecting on the past year. I wait with joy, expecting tomorrow’s homecoming of the 1775th Military Police Company. Our son and daughter-in-law have been gone for a year—a year of many challenges.

While they were gone, our other son and his family spent time recovering from a tragedy. He was shot in his home by intruders. I realize it is only by the grace of God that I could hold it all together through these uncertain times. It was the support and prayers of many who God placed in my life that carried me through. Both young families, and I, have been on journeys of forgiveness.

I cannot imagine what it was like for my children in their struggles. I can understand only from my own perspective as a mother. There were many tears of joy, sorrow, and mixed emotions through it all. Some emotions linger today, and as I grow older I’m sure they will pop up now and then.

Knowing how I feel, I can’t imagine what God feels! Knowing what my children experienced must have made God weep. I wonder about our companionship with others in our daily life. Do we look the other way when confronted by difficult issues? Do we stand in the breach, supporting those who are not like us when they suffer?

I’m strongly reminded about the Worth of All Persons, today and always. I have to look through new lenses and try to see others as God sees them.

Prayer for Peace
Thank you, God, for entrusting us to forgive those who hurt us and reconcile with those who think differently than we do. Help us let go of our defensive and confronting natures and to love according to your will. Grant us peace as we shed feelings of unworthiness.

Spiritual Practice: Forgiveness
Sit in silence, releasing all thoughts. At the end of the silence, say a silent prayer of gratitude. Now, think of something you have not forgiven, perhaps an action by a family member or a member of your congregation. As you hold that thought, breathe in deeply. With each breath, whisper “God, open my heart.” Do this “breath prayer” seven times, remembering that Jesus asks us to forgive “seventy times seven.” Throughout the day take time to practice the exercise, always asking, “God, open my heart.”

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will see and love others as you see and love them.