T is for Thankful!

Tuesday, November 4

11-4By Gwen Simpson of Lamoni, Iowa, USA

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

—Psalm 16:11 NRSV

When our sons were young, every November we would get a piece of poster board and write in large letters at the top, “T is for Thankful.” Each evening, just before bedtime prayers, we all would think of things for which we were thankful. With pens or pencils we drew on the poster board and let the rest of the family guess what we had drawn. We drew pictures in the beginning because the boys were too small to spell. It was fun guessing what each child drew.

Throughout the month our poster filled with drawings. After the typical pictures of mom, dad, brother, our house, and friends, it became a game to see who could think up something new. Toilet paper, zippers, safety pins, fingernails, and doorknobs were some of our more unusual ideas. Each year we compared it to the previous year’s board to see if we had thought of more blessings than before.

The boys have grown now and have kids of their own. But each November, I remember that long-ago tradition. Throughout the month that joyful memory reminds me to count my blessings. The list is always long. I find when my heart fills with gratitude my whole attitude is different. I am more thoughtful, more caring, and yes, more joyful. At this busy time of year, that is a blessing in itself!

Prayer for Peace Generous God, we have so much for which to be thankful. Help us be aware of each blessing in our lives. Help us look on every day of the year as a blessing of your love and peace.

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 look right under my nose and find blessings too many to list.

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Just a Coincidence?

Thursday, July 24

By Jimmie Kurtz of Fulton, Mississippi, USA

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

—Romans 15:13 NRSV

After graduating from Western Illinois University in 1971, I took a position with the state. My wife, our toddler son, and I moved to another city. Our apartment had an outside entrance but was up a flight of steep stairs. It was a holiday weekend, and no one was available to help us unload the rental truck.

We arrived on Friday evening and took only the essentials up to the apartment. We offered our nightly prayers, which included our concern about getting our furniture moved in the next day. Early the next morning I went down to the truck to survey the problem, still not knowing how we were going to get everything up those steep stairs. I could carry some furniture, but not larger items like the refrigerator and sofa.

Just as I arrived to unlock the truck, a couple of teenage boys walked by. Immediately I asked, “Hey, fellas, how would you like to make a few bucks this morning? I have a truck to unload, and I don’t have any help.” Their response was a quick “Sure!”

Within a short time, what had looked to be an impossible task was complete. I handed the boys $10 each, and they cheerfully went on their way. Some would call it a coincidence that the boys walked by at just the right time. I believe it was one way God answered my prayers. I am thankful for the help of the boys and for the hope I find in Christ.

Prayer for Peace God of hope, you capture our attention, sometimes, in unexpected ways. Coincidence or blessing, we are aware of your Spirit in our lives. We find joy and peace in believing.

Spiritual Practice: 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.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will join someone and make a difficult task, easier.

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.

Pick up Your Pen

1-17By June Russell of Independence, Missouri, USA

 O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

—Psalm 139:1–6

One day I picked up a journal I had written in about 20 years earlier. It covered three or four years of my life. It was during a time when I experienced the deaths of my sister, my parents, my husband’s mother, and an aunt. It was a dark time for me. The writing was therapeutic.

I often spent time reading and writing whatever “spoke” to me from the scriptures, especially Psalms and Proverbs. I wrote about memories and burdens. Time spent in the scriptures and in prayer was a lifeline for me, helping me through those difficult times.

As I reread my journal, I saw on the first page I recorded the last two verses of Psalm 139. I remember praying this often as I tried to listen deeply to God’s voice and to my role in Christ’s mission.

The first page also contained a list of what I felt were my shortcomings at the time. Pondering my present life, I am so thankful for any growth I might have made.

Today I sense I again need to spend time reading and reflecting in pen on these scriptures. I pray it won’t be 20 more years before I pick up my journal again.

Prayer for Peace
Search us, O God. Reveal to us what you find. May we always be aware of your presence and that we need not be alone. May the words of our mouths and pens be those that share the peace of Christ.

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 open my heart so your light will reach the dark places.

Rejoice in the Coming of the Lord

By Craig Harper of Gilbert, Arizona, USA

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous. Praise befits the upright. Praise the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings. 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 33:1–5

I remember one cold winter night I shared the organ bench with my mom. She was playing Christmas carols. Because I was old enough to read music, I was her page turner. She really didn’t need the help, but she made me feel like I was needed. It was just for fun, for the season, and practicing for church.

The view outside, from the organ bench, included wind-driven snow and other images of harsh cold, but I was warmed by beautiful music, preparing for birth of Jesus. I was happy. Today, that memory fills me with love and powerful nostalgia.

My mom gave me music, and it continues in our home today. Often, Shari and I will hear the clarinet, the trumpet, or the guitar in a distant room. That would be Rachel and Austin now warming our home.

The gift of music is being passed on. I am thankful for music lessons my grandfather and grandmother gave my mom and for music lessons that have blessed each generation. Music in my house and music in God’s house are great gifts to me. May they bless your life as well, whether you are the musician or the listening worshiper.

Prayer for Peace:

Great Musician, direct our humble songs, our modest melodies, our meek harmonies. Transform our lives to living instruments of praise and peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Welcoming Unity in Diversity

Each day this week meditate on unity in diversity. Prayerfully read Doctrine and Covenants 163:8c, which calls “the entire church to become a sanctuary of Christ’s peace, where people from all nations, ethnicities, and life circumstances can be gathered into a spiritual home without dividing walls.”

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 you and others from being one in Christ’s peace.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will sing, play, or listen to music that inspires me to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

Thanks-living

By Dorene Kilburn of Stratford, Ontario, Canada

…and you must give thanks unto God in the spirit for whatever blessing you are blessed with; and you must practice virtue and holiness before me continually. Even so. Amen.  Doctrine and Covenants 46:9b, adapted

Thanking people and being thankful to God are important but often neglected. Even when I begin a day resolving to thank and be thankful, I find, when I look back at night, that I missed opportunities.

When a beautiful solo enhances worship service, how often do we thank the soloist for the contribution to the spirit of the service?

Do we thank the person who notices we’re carrying several bags of groceries and opens a door for us? Do we nod or wave a “thank you” to the driver who lets us through a long line of cars to make a left-hand turn?

That “thank you,” an acknowledgement of something that brought us pleasure, convenience, or encouragement, will be appreciated and might even brighten the other person’s day.

We need to be thankful to God—intentionally thankful for the incredible world that has been created for us and the many people from whom we can learn and with whom we can share.

Let us be thankful for the beauty around us, often in unlikely places. It’s easy to see the beauty in a lovely garden or the lush green of rolling hills. But we sometimes miss a single flower growing through a crack in a gray stretch of sidewalk. Let us be a thanks-living community.

Prayer for Peace:

Generous God, forgive us when we complain about what we don’t have and forget to thank you for our many blessings. May we always remember to be aware of and express thanks for kindnesses. May we share gratitude and peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Making Responsible Choices

Each day this week 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:

God, I will take stock of my day and express gratitude to my community.

“Thankful for” List

By Marian Hassell of Richmond, Virginia, USA

Thus in their prosperous circumstances they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished. And they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.  Alma 1:45–47

Prayer and thanksgiving are interwoven throughout the scriptures of the church. If we can look past the Christmas decorations in the stores, we are entering our season of thanksgiving in the USA. Canada celebrates this day in October.

For many, the season is synonymous with a family dinner, but there is much more to it than that.

For us as Christ’s disciples, the question is not whether we observe a scheduled day of thanksgiving, but are we a thankful people? Many families have careers that take them in different directions during the week but allow for weekends together. An article I read recently talked about staying involved in each other’s lives by keeping daily lists of “memorable moments and random thoughts” that occur throughout the day.

Would we deepen our relationship with God if we kept a “thankful for” list of the people, things, and ideas we encounter daily and then take that list to our times of personal worship? Our efforts to become purposefully thankful could become a spiritual practice. This would help us to cherish the world around us.

Our “thankful for” list could make us more aware of the blessings God continuously bestows on us. Also, we would be more aware of the ways we could be a blessing to others.

Prayer for Peace:

Generous God, we would be generous, too. May we take hospitality to all who stand in need.

Spiritual Practice:

Honoring and keeping the Sabbath is a spiritual discipline that nourishes persons, families, and congregations. Spend several minutes meditating on your plans for the day. Discern ways you can give intentional attention to God, the sacredness of life, and creation. Slow your pace, breathe deeper, see more clearly and compassionately, create spaces of quiet and solitude. Spend time in nature. Be alert for signs of beauty and divine presence. Cook and eat your food with keen awareness of color, taste, texture, fragrance. Listen to music, look closely at the face of a loved one, laugh and talk together. Pray over these Sabbath possibilities and enter the day with reverence.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God. I will make a list of how I can be more generous. I will begin to carry out items on the list.

God’s Love Endures Forever

By Jane Gardner, High Priest Quorum president

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so… Psalm 107:1–2

The psalmist directs us to voice experiences that convince us God’s love endures forever. The children of Israel had been through tough times, but that was not an excuse to withhold praises and thanksgiving for God’s presence and deliverance.

In our family, my mother’s diagnosis of dementia and the deterioration of her memory have been difficult. Can anything about this situation merit praise to God? Three thoughts immediately come to mind. When in rare, lucid moments Mom can interact and participate with us—Praise God! When Mom gets excited and “plays” with her 2-year-old grandchild, though she doesn’t always remember his name—Praise God! When Mom sings the hymns with energy and fervor (sometimes from memory)—Praise God!

It is a matter of perspective. We are thankful for Mom’s life as a disciple of Jesus. Even when she can’t testify herself anymore—those of us who have been blessed by her life testify that God’s love was and continues to be present in her living. With faith we testify it is God’s love that sustains us and offers hope for the days ahead.

Prayer for Peace:

Divine Parent, we are humbled when our life roles are reversed, and we become caregivers for our beloved parents. We praise you for being with us on such journeys. We praise you for the memories of times that we feel your enduring love. In those times we are at peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart

Each day this week open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breath 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. “God, I breathe in the gift of  with thanks.” 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.

Eternal joy and peace await those who grow in the grace of generosity that flows from compassionate hearts.  Doctrine and Covenants 163:9

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will think back and remember the times I have felt close to you. I will witness of your love to someone who has forgotten.