Category Archives: Peace & Spiritual Practice blog.


The Word Became Flesh by Shandra Newcom

The Word Became Flesh by Shandra Newcom

The Word Became Flesh by Shandra Newcom

by zharmac


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The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.  We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. ­ John 1:14 (The Message)

I am passionate about God’s mission and living that mission in the world.  Passion, however, does not always equal perfection (in fact, it rarely does).  I often feel like I let myself and God down, especially when I miss opportunities for conversation or connection with others. 

What a gift it was when I realized that God’s mission – while needing my commitment – didn’t rely solely on my response.  Put another way, I realized that God is at work in my neighborhood, the very place to which I am called, ahead of me and behind me, around me and before me.   I understood that God’s generous nature is being sung through the world and that, while I am invited to join in the song, I am not the author of the tune.

Mary walked in to our congregation’s first community center experiment in October.  We had decided to risk something new and open our doors to the community one night a month for food, fellowship, games and education.  We invited the entire neighborhood and held our breath.  We had no idea if anyone would show up.  We just knew that we were being called to be open.  When Mary walked in, no one was more surprised than me.  You see, I had forgotten to trust in the generous nature of God.  I had forgotten that God was already at work in Mary’s life and that by inviting her in, we were joining our song with hers. 

God’s song calls to me in new ways each day.  When I begin to think that I am out of tune, I simply stop and listen and find my way home again.  Sometimes that stopping looks like a missional practice where I sit and dwell in God’s Word.  Sometimes it looks like a spiritual discipline where I quietly breathe and center myself in prayer.  Sometimes it looks like a visit to the closest shopping center where I sit and pray for people passing by. 

Mary has already become a blessing to our congregation.  We have opened our doors and our hearts to her.  When she has surgery in December, she will be well prayed for and taken care of by her new friends.  She has become a reminder to me that God’s generosity knows no limit.  She reflects that generosity in the ways she sings the song of our community – in tune simply because she has walked through the door.

I know that not everyone with whom I am called to sing will walk through the door of my church.  In fact, I am clear that if I were to sit and wait, in the walls of my congregation, for the neighborhood to enter and be received, I would be missing the point all together.  God moved into the neighborhood.  And I am called to move as well.  The gift comes in knowing that even though I move slowly, even though I forget to move altogether, God is moving and singing and working.  It’s why we are in this together.  You and me.  And Mary.  And all the rest of the choir.  It is why we sing.  It is God’s song in the world.  And it is a song of beauty and joy.  

Turning a Lost Moment into a Found and Fond Memory

Tuesday, September 24

9-24By Glenn Johnson of Covina, California, USA

Heed the urgent call to become a global family united in the name of Christ, committed in love to one another, seeking the kingdom for which you yearn and to which you have always been summoned. That kingdom shall be a peaceable one and it shall be known as Zion.

—Doctrine and Covenants 161:6b

On a recent business trip to Israel, I asked a colleague for a ride to Jerusalem. He dropped me by the Jaffa Gate. When I arrived it was dark. It had been a few years since I had navigated the narrow streets, but I managed to find my way past the Cardo to the Western Wall. A crowd had recently dispersed after some sort of concert or rally. I felt I had missed something important.

On my way back, I made a wrong turn. The Jaffa Gate was not in sight. I turned right. I came to another gate. I went through and read the sign: “Zion’s Gate.” My mind raced as I considered whether this hill really was “Mount Zion,” a beacon of the present and future kingdom of God for my faith community.

I explored the streets nearby and found Hagia Zion, or Holy Zion Church, and the Jewish Yeshiva Institute for the Preservation of Holy Mount Zion. Beyond a barbwire fence, I saw the minaret of a mosque. Despite all hopes for peace, Jerusalem remained a city divided. Yet from this new vantage point on Zion’s holy hill, the city’s outer walls were an apparition in golden light.

Jesus spoke of basileia tou theou, the kingdom of God, as a present reality and a hoped-for future. My unexpected nighttime discovery of Zion helped me to understand better Jesus’ teachings. As we work together as an imperfect yet transforming community, let us always see the cause of Zion as tangible, real communities to be celebrated and experienced, as well as future ideals toward which we can strive.

Prayer for Peace
Gather us in, O God, in closeness to your peaceable kingdom. Help us become a community that embraces Christ’s mission of peace.

Spiritual Practice: The International Community
Find (or imagine) a globe or map of the world. Look at all the nations and find a country other than your own. Notice the geographic distance between your homeland and this one. Picture a person living there. Pray for this person. Sense God’s love connecting you just as the oceans connect the continents. Thank God for the spiritual connection you have with all of God’s people around the globe. Ask a blessing on the church as a community sharing Christ’s peace, drawing all into the family of God.


It is always a joy to read one of our friends reflections in the Daily Bread, and remember fondly my experiences of exploring Israel.  As we participate as a congregation to “WALK TO BETHLEHEM” for a new Christmas experience; picture the people living there today, and how they live.  Participating in the Casa de Maria Interfaith Sukkah celebration and sitting in small groups around and within the Sukkah; i found myself very tuned in to the diverse faith traditions present, and the sincere desire for PEACE…”our hoped-for future.”.  The rabbi that led us that day told about his house, and the construction of it.  He wanted a door on the east, west, north and south and none should have the appearance of a “front” door…if people enter into a family living room, the kitchen, garage, or side where my office and library is….they have found the right door and are welcomed!  Let the doors of our minds and heart always be open to new people and opportunities for peace to prevail.  Denise


Generosity! Click the link below and watch.

This Three Minute Commercial Puts Full-Length Hollywood Films to Shame.  Thank you, Chuck Metcalf for submitting this video.


How to emotionally open yourself to God

Jesus wept.
John 11:35

Tears are a fundamental aspect of the human condition. Christian author Calvin Miller writes in his book, The Valiant Papers, on crying,

Crying is common in this world. It does little good to ask the reason for it. [Earth] is what one might call a weeping planet. Laughter can be heard here and there, but by and large, weeping predominates. With maturity the sound and reason for crying changes, but never does it stop. All infants do it everywhere—even in public. By adulthood most crying is done alone and in the dark. Weeping, for babies, is a sign of health and evidence that they are alive. Isn’t this a chilling omen?

Not laughter but tears is the life sign. It leaves weeping and being synonyms.

Yes, weeping and being are synonymous. Yet today, crying is seen as a sign of weakness, an emotion which should be suppressed for the sake of “being strong” in front of others. It leaves us to wonder, then, as to when in our lives this becomes the case. As Miller says, crying is a sign of life among children. But somewhere along the way, this changes.

Maybe today you need to shed a few tears with God. You’ve let emotions build up inside of youfor so long that you need to get alone with God and weep. Open your emotional self to God and be fully known as you live your life authentically before Him.

Prayer Challenge

Pray that God would give you a heart of flesh, and that you’d live authentically before Him when it comes to your emotions.

Questions for Thought

When is the last time you cried?

What emotions have you built up inside of you that need to come out?

Visit the Senior Living Ministries website

Children can and do lead us!  During our last sacrament service with the Blessing of a Baby; Arla shared the difference between being childish and child like.  During our Laughter Yoga class in Orange with the seniors; we were told that adults laugh with their brains and children laugh with their whole being.  I am also very aware of, and mindful with daily prayer, of those in our midst who are weeping for changes to health for self and others, finding diminishing joy in their lives, and projecting into the future with significant worry.  It is my personal testimony that when we weep alone and cry out to God…why; we continue to suffer.  When we weep with God  and ask for the promises of comfort through the Holy Spirit; we find peace.  Fear and faith struggling daily within the same vessel can cause great harm to our bodies, minds and spirits.  Allow yourself to weep and laugh every day you need it for the best self care.  Blessings, Denise

An Example of the Law & Love

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
–Colossians 3:12

In 1935, on a winter night, Fiorello LaGuardia, the mayor of New York City, showed up at night court in the poorest part of the city. He let the judge go for the evening and he took over the bench.

A woman in torn clothing, charged with stealing a loaf of bread, was brought to stand before LaGuardia. She told LaGuardia that her son-in-law had deserted her extremely sick daughter, and that her grandchildren were starving. The shopkeeper refused to drop the charges, however, saying she needed to be punished.

LaGuardia sighed, turned to the old woman, and said, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days in jail.”

As soon as he pronounced the sentence, however, LaGuardia took a $10 bill out of his pocket and threw it into a hat. And he said: “Here’s the $10 fine, which I now remit. Furthermore, I’m going to fine each person 50 cents in this courtroom for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

The next day, a New York newspaper reported that $47.50 was turned over to the grandmother who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren.

Today, give encouragement or show kindness to someone who wouldn’t expect it from anyone else. Christ came to give life and show mercy to those less fortunate and those who are sinners—not the high and mighty. Restore the joy in your life by giving of your time and energy to those who don’t have the blessings that you do.

PRAYER CHALLENGE: Ask God to show you someone who is less fortunate than you, so you can extend to him or her the same kindness that Christ first showed you.

Visit the Senior Living Ministries website


Recent confirmation pictures are up under the worship tab.

Congregational Life.

Check out all the great new pictures in Congregational Life.

Unfinished Business

Last night Mitch and I went to see Rod Lathim’s play “Unfinished Business” at the Lobero. The play was one glimpse into life’s mystical transition and was sponsored by The Alliance for Living and Dying Well.  Mitch thought it was a rather “heavy” topic for Mothers Day, but it provided for some good dialogue following the play about faith, fears and end-of- life challenges and blessings in a “lighter” environment.

I have also been involved managing the end of life issues for Betty B as her DPOA through Shamrock Ministries. There have been some heavy and light moments in this journey, but I am convinced she had an awareness and desire for the end of her life and started working with me to plan for, and aggressively take care of, unfinished business.  There was a sensed awareness of her peace as she died knowing that I would keep the promises she asked for, and God would keep the promises of eternal rest and wholeness as a life long disciple.

I also had an opportunity to do a lot of table fellowship with many seniors who attended the Buckhorn Camp Work Week, and I invested my time and took an assortment of assignments for two days.  Before I departed on Friday; I was asked to provide the Laying on of Hands Prayer for someone.  When I asked what is your greatest need or concern at this time; I was told…”I have Dementia and I am slowly loosing my mind.”  Both of our eyes filled with tears, and I had to take a pause for added preparation and a deep breath.  What do I say to someone who will probably not remember the words of this blessing tomorrow?  Everyone gathered around and added their presence of love, prayer connection to mine, and energy of faith for this sacrament.   My prayer was for the lifelong memories of God’s goodness, unconditional love, promises to never be left alone, and the presence of the Holy Spirit that removed fear and provided peace.    I also prayed for those gathered and the intimate family that would require an abundance of patience and love to provide a safe space and tenderness to remain valued within our community, and bring to the present the cherished memories of their  past.

In your spiritual practice time this week; be thankful for what and who you can remember and what unfinished business you can handle now.  Live in the moment of the scriptural promises….”I have created and called you by your name; you are mine.”  I AM the God of Creation and final Transformation,  I AM the divinely human example of goodness and grace through Jesus the Christ, and  I AM the gentle breath of awareness and lifelong comforter of the Holy Spirit.  I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS.        Denise

Yesterday we had our first study worship from Peter Judd’s book Christ’s Mission is our Mission.  I found it remarkable that the Daily Bread for this same Sunday was written by Peter and the bulletin inspiration on the rear page was written by Peter.  Our study time is based on the scripture from Luke 4:18-21 with additional references to the context and content of the entire chapter.

Every Monday I start my day with the discipline of meditation, study and prayer.  My life schedule can be complicated and crazy busy, but I know that “this is what matters most.”  I use many sources  for inspiration and direction.  Monday is always the day I use the Missionary Prayer to “show me someone this week that needs to hear the Good News, or  be the hands of service for another.”  My petition and prayer is always answered, and sometimes it is disruptive to my “planned agenda”, but I am always blessed working with and for the Lord.

Terence Gorski in his book Understanding the Twelve Steps  and Recovering People indicates that it is helpful each day to think about GOD as an acronym for “Good Orderly Direction” and believe that God gives us the courage, strength and hope to manage each day believing that we are big enough and capable enough to handle life as it is given to us.

As we all prepare this week for the sacrament of Communion; I am mindful of my calling and anointing to “preach the gospel to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind and set at liberty those who are bruised.”  These are words relevant in 2013 in Santa Barbara and when matched with our Enduring Principles give meaning and purpose to my life….how about you?  Sometimes I have to use this scripture to liberate and  heal myself always knowing that the Holy Spirit is present as a guide and comforter.

I hope that the book, study time, and then story telling will bless us as a “Congregation in Mission” for the peaceable kingdom on our hill, and in our homes and communities.

Blessings and peace for your week.  Denise


Peace Through All People

Wonderful peace video.