Friday, August 26, 2016

The Author Our Faith

This summer Hillary Scott (and family) released a new album called Love Remains! If you follow country music you know Hillary as part of Grammy-winning Lady Antebellum. The single from the album "Thy Will" brings you to a place of surrender, a place where God abides even in the crisis, prevails even through the grief, comforts even with not understanding. God's goodness is greater than any disappointments. I hope you will take a long listen, and maybe a few more listens as you find those tender places of life and a God who loves!

My devotional this morning offered words that bring comfort and resolution, even when difficulty kidnaps my joy, even when disappointment holds my heart hostage. Warren Wiersbe writes, "God always writes the last chapter." God's goodness and love, His power and provision find us even beside the shadows of doubt or inside the embrace of grief or outside the borders of loneliness. He abides with us throughout all the chapters of our stories. The last chapter includes His Glory forever more. Now that's a great ending! - dho

Friday, August 19, 2016

Real Beauty

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” 

This fall our Women's Ministry is taking a group to the Belong Tour when it comes to Charlotte, NC, in November. I get emails with updates called "Belong Buzz". (You can sign up for them, too, on the website!) Within these emails are encouraging blog posts and other tidbits of information. I'd like to share one of the blog posts this week from Amy Potts titled, "You're Beautiful". (see her bio at the end of this post)
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Is this not so true? I believe that resting inside each of us is a beauty that is waiting to be released. It’s a beauty that only you possess. It’s the smile you give a stranger. It’s the warm hello you offer to a coworker in passing. It’s the acts of kindness that you perform even when you feel anything but kind. Deep inside you there is something; someone very beautiful. Amy Potts (excerpt from her post)
Take a minute to read the full blog post of Amy's rich, powerful thoughts on REAL beauty! Click here for the link to the article.

About the Author: Amy Potts

Writer/Musician/Photographer/Barefoot Preacher Amy Potts says she has “so many things for which I’m grateful.” These include husband Mike, is (cheerleader and best friend in all things), Chloe the Corgi and Carlos the Cat. A native “Iowegian” transplanted in Kansas to learn and grow, Amy’s message is and always will be about encouraging others. “When one person finds hope, they have been given a gift worth sharing.” When she’s not writing you can find Amy out in the country or in her favorite park, hiking and seeing the world through the lens of her camera, which is “always calming and inspiring and ultimately what spurs me to write the next post.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

On Mission in MS! Part 3

Matt and Angela Morgan, along with their three delightful children, are serving as dorm parents at French Camp Academy. They must merge supervision with spiritual truth, discipline with disappointment, compassion with chaos. Words like "sacrifice" and "obedience" and immense dependence on God's guidance fill their moments. In this last sharing of the mission experience in MS, I leave you with insights that Matt and Angela shared with us. Angela is featured in a video on French Camp's website. Her story brings a depth as she, too, was once a student and graduate of FCA.

As we listened, Matt and Angela share their FCA experiences during our devotional time. Themes of betrayal and brokenness, emotional and physical pain, heartbreak and hope filled their stories. Carl asked both of them to share a time when their hearts had been broken. Matt told of a girl in their family unit leaving FCA and Angela of a broken relationship after investing much to establish a bond. Sacrifice - real sacrifice - continues to be a choice, a struggle, a stark reality for the entire family. For the FCA girls of "His Way Home" emptiness and anger frequently compete with desperate needs to feel loved and learn what love really means.

                                              Angela Morgan's Story!  (click here for link) 

One of the lessons that Angela explained is "Rules without relationships = rebellion." The Morgan's believe their mission is "to live like a family as God intends and to model that for others." They spend much time and energy building relationships and modeling what a healthy family looks like. The girls in their home come from broken places and dysfunctional families. Too often rebellion raises its head. Pain from emotional abandonment and physical abuse reveal hardened hearts and trust issues. Consistently showing kindness and love sometimes softens hearts, however, too often they stay trapped in their brokenness. There are success stories, too! The phone calls after graduation, team building and service projects that put the focus on someone else, and typical family things like birthday celebrations bring hope. Angela had one girl say to her, "You are the first person that ever told me the truth." Stories about rebellion and relationship, stories about restoration and refreshment have filled these days!

During our stay, we had two opportunities to share dinner with different sets of dorm parents. Sitting around the Morgan's generous table, laughter came as easily as their dedication to serve French Camp Academy. There was joy and honesty in the breaking of bread. As we gathered in the living room together for devotions this final evening, reflections of FCA staff and their optimism and willingness to serve was recognized and appreciated. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! Truly, French Camp Academy is One Fine Place! -dho

Friday, August 05, 2016

On Mission in MS! Part 2

Rollers and brushes and lots of strokes covered the walls throughout the morning. Conversations flowed easily into the empty room, a sharing of life experiences and campus life. I found myself thinking back to something Angela said last night, "Sometimes, even though so much is happening here, this can feel like a spiritual desert. You (Snyder team) may have thought you came to do painting and construction projects, but the refreshment of community you have brought to us is your greatest gift." 

Matt and Angela Morgan and their three children are missionaries. Although not in a foreign country, their obedience to God's call brings its own sacrifices. We listen as they share their call and experiences, disappointments and joys, hopes and realities. We hear the cost of discipleship and the immeasurable rewards. Each night one of our team would lead us in a time of devotion. Carl (Broadhurst) said during devotion, "God is at work, and we are called to work where God is at work." Including the Morgan children in this time, he reminded them that God had called their parents but they, too, were serving. A little worn and weary from the day's work, we find joy in knowing we are working where God is at work!

Rollers and brushes and ladders take action. Renovations requiring caulking and wiring, floors that need sweeping and vacuuming find willing hands. Pressure washing refreshes surfaces. Hammers and saws and nails repair. All the tasks may seem to be the main reason for this trip. Yes, they are purposeful, but seeing God revealed through the work, through the relationships becomes the greatest outcome.

Friday, July 29, 2016

On Mission in MS! Part 1

Summer Mission Experience at French Camp Academy -

Leaving NC on Saturday July 16, 2016, we traveled from 7:30 am Eastern Time until 7:30 pm Central Time; the team drove the last 30 miles on the peaceful, lush green Natchez Trace Parkway arriving at French Camp Academy in French Camp, MS. Greeted by the Morgan family and welcomed into their home, we would spend the next week worshiping and working alongside each other.

I'm attaching a link to a short video that gives just a very quick overview of our tasks. Missions are much more than tasks and a video can never share the complete experience. Over the next few weeks I will share more of what we experienced and what we learned from this opportunity to serve Christ. Beyond the painting and the pressure washing, the rebuilding of a wooden walkway, our lives intersected with other Christians who truly personify "sacrifice" and "patience" and "endurance" serving Christ and giving the glory to God. -dho

Mission Experience in French Camp Academy in MS (click to video)

Friday, July 22, 2016

On Mission!

Summer series "Friday's Summer Fruits" with Donna Oswalt
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good..." Psalm 34:8

Along with some other church folks, I am heading on a Mission experience to French Camp Academy. Next week I will share more about this particular spiritual adventure. This week I want to share a blog post by Carolyn Moore, minister in the United Methodist Church from Augusta, GA, as her perception of missions is the new model churches are adopting. The books she recommends are good places to begin to reshape our decades-old thoughts about what missions should be.
Churches genuinely driven to be both faithful and effective are changing the ways they do short-term international and even long-term local missions. Carolyn Moore

"What makes an effective short-term missionary? It is someone who goes as a learner  to discover God’s heart for the whole world and to encourage those who serve full-time in the field. It is one who is challenged to go deeper in devotion to God and to look for where she can more intentionally serve upon return. It is one who comes home and starts praying with a stronger understanding and passion for the Harvest." Carolyn Moore
So... are you willing to be changed, challenged, and serve for God's glory? ~ dho

Carolyn Moore is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. She was born and raised in Augusta and graduated from the University of Georgia (B.A. – Religion, 1985) and Asbury Theological Seminary (Masters of Divinity, 1998). She is currently involved in the Doctor of Ministry degree program at Asbury, as part of the church planting cohort.
Carolyn served for five years as an associate pastor at Athens First United Methodist church (Athens, Georgia). In June of 2003, she was appointed home again to the Augusta area, where she and her family were given the joy of birthing Mosaic United Methodist Church.
Mosaic focuses on reaching people in the margins. In nine years of weekly worship, Mosaic has seen hundreds of baptisms and professions of faith. A satellite ministry serves adults with disabilities in downtown Augusta.
Carolyn has been joyfully married for 26 years to Steve Moore, a social studies teacher at Greenbrier High School. Their daughter, Claire, is a 2013 graduate of Reinhardt University.
My passion is for telling the story of Jesus Christ. I love sharing the truth I’ve found in Him! I love seeing broken people healed and lost people found. My family and I have found such a joy in being part of something as exciting as the start of a new church.

Friday, July 15, 2016

New Every Morning

Summer series "Friday's Summer Fruits" with Donna Oswalt
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good..." Psalm 34:8

The Broadway musical "Rent" has a catchy song, "525,600 Minutes" that gives us pause to wonder just how do we measure a year.
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?
This month on Wednesday nights we are studying Mark Batterson's book IF. In discussing God's mercy, we read Lamentations 3:22-23, "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." The question was asked, "How many mornings since your birth have you had opportunities to experience God's mercies?" I found a calendar that helped me figure this out and as of today, I have had 22,375 days of God's mercies. That's a whole lot of minutes! That's an enormous amount of mercy!!

Webster defines mercies as "compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender" and "a blessing, an act of divine favor." As we look at Jeremiah's words in Lamentations, we recognize that he is in place of suffering; yet, he still acknowledges God's sovereignty. God's "steadfast love" refers to His promise of faithfulness. The ESV Study Bible notes that this compassion (or mercy) replaces "judgment with restoration". God's sovereign purposes exceed our ability to comprehend. We can, however, be certain of His enduring love and constant mercies despite times of suffering and difficult times of earthly uncertainty. Never-ending mercies conceived by God faithfulness allow even our grief to give birth to hope.

"We define ourselves by what we have done rather than by what God has done for us." Mark Batterson

Batterson says too often we focus on the "if only" and "what if" moments in our lives, leaving us frequently stuck inside thoughts and behaviors that do not lead to productive lives for God. No matter the number of days of God's mercies, no matter that we are undeserving, still each day God loves us, offers love to the offenders! St. Augustine called mercy, "ever ancient, ever new". God, called in Scripture the Ancient of Days is both eternal (or forever) and new to us each day. Blackaby writes that we should, "watch daily to see how God uniquely demonstrates His love and compassion for us." This week, let's consider the moments, the minutes, each day and watch with anticipation how God's love reveals itself to us. Tomorrow...22,376 days and still counting!! ~dho

Friday, July 08, 2016

Ocean Reflections!

Summer series "Friday's Summer Fruits" with Donna Oswalt
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good..." Psalm 34:8

Summer breezes call to us from the ocean, waves whisper gently to our souls. I invite you to experience a short 20 seconds of "ocean reflection", although you may play it more than once to prolong the time. I took this short video at the Outer Banks in Corolla, NC about a month ago. While I confess to love sitting at the ocean's shore, I find even more awe at thinking about the Creator who spoke this into place. The latter chapters of Job always prick my imagination and carry it to the heights of the unpredictable. Chapters 38-41 give us more than a glimpse as God asks Job just where he was "when I laid the foundation of the earth".
Or Who enclosed the sea with its doors when bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and door, and I said, "Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop"
Job 38:8-11

Take some time to listen to the waves, remembering that God set their boundaries. Hopefully you will have time to read these four chapters in Job and contemplate the immensity of creation! - dho 

Monday, July 04, 2016

Liberty ~ Fruit of Life!

America the Beautiful, original words 1893:
"...America! America! God shed His grace on thee, 
Till selfish gain no longer stain,
The banner of the free!"

By 1911, the words changed:
"...Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine."

Let's help America keep the perspective of selfless-ness over noble success, and not let any gain rise higher than freedom and liberty. As Americans, we value liberty but struggle with its power. This liberty allows us the freedom to choose our own interests and create our personal agendas and claim our individual beliefs. With freedom comes responsibility, the responsibility to respect others with whom we differ, to respect each other as people.

In the New Testament, James writes, "So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of Liberty." For Christians, this 'law of Liberty' is the Perfect Law of Christ, faithful and true. James goes on to remind us, "For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time." As Christians, we are to be kind to others! Kindness personifies liberty. Let our kindness show others the soul-liberty we know through the grace of Christ. And on this day we celebrate America's Independence Day let our prayer be, "...God shed Your grace on me, and crown Your good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea." -dho

*Scripture James 2:12-13 (The Message)

Friday, July 01, 2016

Thriving with Jesus!

Summer series "Friday's Summer Fruits" with Donna Oswalt
"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good..." Psalm 34:8

Last Saturday I attended a Women's Conference here in NC and heard speaker, Lisa Harper. Well-known as a speaker on the Women of Faith tour for eight years and author of eleven books, Lisa spoke on how to thrive while "Surviving as a Christian Woman in Today's World". Brought to NC by First Presbyterian Church, they graciously invited the community. We laughed and listened and learned together. We also got to meet her sweet daughter, Missy, that she adopted from Haiti. 
As Christian women we must learn to thrive and reflect the glory of Jesus on the mountains AND in the valleys. ~Lisa Harper
Taking us into the Gospel of Mark, Lisa spoke about "connecting with Jesus" and "reflecting the hope of Jesus". In worship, Lisa reminded us of our posture, "What matters most in worship is the posture of our hearts... we must be moving toward Jesus." While teaching from Mark, we learned the "key to THRIVING is to be preoccupied with Jesus." 
We can't just connect with Jesus; some of this must spill over." ~ Lisa Harper
As Lisa taught from Mark 10 about blind Bartimaeus, the lessons overflowed. The compassion Jesus has for the people and the passion of Jesus that pours out in recognizing His purpose at Calvary are major themes. Redemption and Restoration are the gifts of Christ! In Mark 10:46-49 we looked at particular word passages that help us understand the story of Bartimaeus and his healing by Jesus. Phrases like sitting by the roadside and Jesus, Son of David and rebuked him and Jesus stopped all tell the story of a healing but remain truths for us today. We must seek Jesus where we are, recognize Him as the Messiah, not be discouraged when the crowd criticizes us, and believe that Jesus will stop for us. Lisa said, "As Christians, the Sovereign call on our life is to share the love of Jesus with the world around us." Take some time to get to know Lisa via her web page and other social media; check out her books, too! ~dho

Yet when asked about her credentials, the most noticeable thing about Lisa Harper is her authenticity. During a recent interview she said, “I’m so grateful for the opportunities God’s given me but don’t forget, He often uses donkeys and rocks!” She went on to describe her greatest accomplishment to date as getting to be Missy’s mama. Because in April 2014, after a difficult two-year journey, Lisa finally got to bring her adopted daughter home from Haiti and she hasn’t stopped grinning since.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Different Kind of Gospel Music

Summer series "Friday's Summer Fruits" with Donna Oswalt
"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good..." Psalm 34:8

By subscription, I receive emails during the week from describing themselves as very simply a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. The exerts are from random books; some days the topic interests me and other times not so much. A few weeks ago the selection was about Rosetta Tharpe, who some consider the first rock and roll guitarist and a women no less!
Sister Rosetta Tharpe not only could sing electrifying gospel but what an acoustic guitar she could play. [Jazz promoter] John Hammond explained, 'She is one of the first to use it for melody-plucked lines. Her technically astonishing lead breaks invented the rock and roll guitar.' (click for full article)
Born in 1915 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, she frequently accompanied her mother as she preached. Rosetta, a "big attraction", sang and played the guitar. Very talented, but in some ways, her music style was scandalous in many religious circles while secular audiences heard "blues-oriented gospel" for the first time.
"Rosetta Tharpe was a pioneer. When she sang gospel on a secular stage she scandalized the sanctified church. They never forgave her. Religious folk opposed singing in cabarets; it was synonymous with the Devil, God's enemy. They told Sister Tharpe that either she serve the devil or God. She would respond that the Lord knew her heart and it wouldn't lead her astray. She was the first gospel singer to sign with a major recording company and to appear in a nightclub -- mine."  (click for full article)
Today, contemporary worship music is both familiar and common place within Christian circles; new Christian music rattled churches a few decades ago and still is considered not sacred enough by some. I marvel at Rosetta's unashamed offering of the Gospel, her willingness to share her soul despite ridicule and lack of acceptance. Take a moment to watch a video of her in 1960! Radical for the times! As you listen, ask yourself if you are ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Will you share Him today? - dho

**Link to other videos of Rosetta Tharpe