Thursday, October 20, 2016

Patient Living

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.  Acts 1:14

After Jesus ascends to Heaven, the disciples gather in Jerusalem and wait! The believers, including the disciples, the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, the brothers of Jesus, meet together fervently praying and waiting. There are now 120 believers (Acts 1:15). The disciples need to replace Judas Iscariot, the one who had betrayed Jesus. Considering the parameters, to be a witness of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22), after prayer Matthias becomes the 12th disciple. These days of waiting are the beginning of the Christian church. For now, they wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In the waiting, Jesus words, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes likely replays in their minds, enters their discussions, and holds a prominent place in their prayers. In the waiting, perhaps they wonder exactly when and how this will happen. As they welcome Matthias into the inner circle, maybe they retell Jesus' words before He ascended into heaven or discuss what being witnesses "to the ends of the earth" might look like or perhaps they even recall those other times that Jesus had told them about sending the Holy Spirit. While waiting for something they could not fully grasp, for a power they could not exactly define, for a moment they could not completely predict, they pray.

Henri Nouwen writes about waiting as moments "pregnant with possibility" and "giving up all my attempts to control". Describing waiting as "a period of learning", Nouwen is not defining waiting as passive, rather as an active period of time, a vital and engaged time, a time of patience. He says, "patient people dare to stay where they are. Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there." The new believers of the first church actively wait in prayer and preparation, together in community and fellowship, with an assurance from Christ. I long to be better at waiting, to be more present in the moments of hope, to be patient in the silences, to find freedom in allowing the Spirit of God to lead me. How about you? How do you WAIT?  ~dho 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rest...Even in the Middle of Chaos

"True silence is the rest of the mind;
it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body,
nourishment and refreshment."
William Penn

In these recent days of hurricane winds and waves, fury and floods, the body and the mind of many have found mostly chaos and uncertainty. Destruction seems to take delight in its plunder. The concerns of life, full of noise and anxiety, all compete at the same time for every weary mind! In the world there is little silence; there is not much true rest for the mind.

Jesus tells us, "Come to Me. Get away with Me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace ...(Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

Jesus lived the example of spending time in prayer ~ away from the crowds ~ alone with the Father. This is how He demonstrated real rest ~ rest for the mind, the body and the spirit ~ rest in the middle of chaos ~ rest in the presence of God. Listen to the words of Jesus; seek Him, even in the middle of the chaos ~ learn [His] unforced rhythms of grace. ~dho

Psalms 55:18 The Message
I call to God;
    God will help me.
At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh
    deep sighs—he hears, he rescues.
My life is well and whole, secure
    in the middle of danger.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Treasure the Moments

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. 

December 1963
Every autumn, every year, my heart remembers a time of personal and spiritual growth. After a brain tumor surgery, my grandmother retains her abilities to comprehend situations, but can no longer verbally express herself. Recalling the summer of 1974 finds me thankful for these last months of sharing, both through tears and gestures, but always laughter was louder. Reflections of my paternal grandmother's last stage of living always bring to mind an unusual demonstration of friendship. Her friend remains faceless to me. She's just a name that I heard from time to time over the years. And, just as mysteriously, for nearly 5 months, a red rose arrived each day.

A Remnant of Love

Once long, long ago, who knows just when,
            greetings were exchanged.
Neighbors for a while, some say, these two
            strangers became friends.
Conversations of yester-year gone
            and unrecorded,
How I wish I could go back in time
            to find the secret
Of such enduring friendship, a gift
            of the heart for life . . .

Sunny skies and death, together, cast down
            shadows on my soul.
Precious as gold, time seemed all too short;
            she would soon be gone.
Silent tears of helplessness inside;
            laughter was louder.
Old stories retold became treasures,
            priceless memories.

Although miles and miles apart, friendship
            did not notice, and
Always, a token of remembrance
            was placed by her side.
Gentle reminder, gesture of love,
            each day one red rose.
Only once did she speak to me of
            death, my constant thought.
Relentless, calloused foe of mortal
            life took her last breath . . .

Her body lay empty beneath a
            blanket of roses.
I stood beside her grave in sorrow
            for my loss; I wept.
I remember taking one red rose,
            a final farewell.
For me it was a symbol of her
            friend’s tender heart,
Of such enduring friendship, a gift,
            a remnant of love.

Although more than a decade has passed,
             I still think of her.
Those priceless memories come to mind
            as if time stood still.
Each year when autumn breezes whisper,
            tears seek revival.
Beneath the sadness I remember
            laughter was louder.

And my heart is blessed as I recall
            her final months, when
Always, a token of remembrance
            was placed by her side.
Gentle reminder, gesture of love,
            each day one red rose.
How I wish I could go back in time
            to find the secret
Of their enduring friendship, a gift 
of the heart for life.
(written 1987, Donna Oswalt)

I wrote this poem more than a decade after her death, words eluding my emotions until then. And still, when I think of such friendship, the best definition I can think of is "each day one red rose." What an amazing heart-gift! What a demonstration of love and loyalty! The Life Application Study Bible says, "The greatest evidence of genuine friendship is loyalty." Over nearly four decades later, I have learned this kind of friendship is extremely rare.

God never asks us to do something without having demonstrated it Himself. Jesus tells us to love one another and demonstrates this rare kind of love with His life, death and resurrection. By definition loyalty manifests itself by devotion, honesty, sincerity, and support. God models His loyalty to us though His constancy, incorruptibility, steadfastness, and truth. Genuine relationships understand the value of sharing life events; to remember the beginnings, to treasure the laughter, to honor the celebrations, to bear the disappointments, to experience the ordinary, and to love through the endings. God promises to love forever! 

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT) God's love is much more than a token of remembrance or a gesture of love. Christ's unmatched sacrifice becomes God's matchless grace. This holy gift of enduring friendship redefines loyalty's unfailing love as Perfect Love. I have learned this friendship is the rarest of all! ~ dho

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fresh Wind in My Sails!

The peace of God is perfection of energy; it is a healthy vigor of the soul. Oswald Chambers

Fall is here! Summer's memories, along with its sand and shells, trails and travels, laughter and living, are tucked into bags and drawers and photos. School is back in session, and a change is in the air; summer rests as leaves change, daylight shortens, and Autumn's plans begin to fill the calendar. Relaxed schedules have merged into routines. As a new season begins, the heart hopes that God's peace will be more than enough and desires God's love to become its deepest joy. Our prayers search for words to refresh the soul with a new beginning.

In the Union Prayer Book for Jewish Worship, I find these words:

Help us, O God, to banish from our hearts all vainglory, pride of worldly possessions, and self-sufficient leaning upon our own reason. Fill us with the spirit of meekness and the grace of modesty that we may grow in wisdom and in reverence. May we never forget that all we have and prize is but lent to us, a trust for which we must render account to Thee. O heavenly Father, put into our hearts the love and awe of Thee, that we may consecrated our lives to Thy service and glorify Thy name in the eyes of all men.
While energy is the capacity to do work, potential energy is energy that exists in a body as a result of its position or condition. Wisdom and grace fall gently from God reminding us of His generous provisions. His power and love exceed our capacity to understand. Letting God be the source of our energy is the only way we can truly prepare our hearts to know His peace and our hands to serve others. But how do we position ourselves to receive such awesome energy?
I will build an altar of the broken fragments of my heart, and will bow my spirit within me. My broken spirit - that is Thy sacrifice; let it be acceptable upon Thine altar. I will proclaim aloud Thy praise, I will declare all Thy wonders. Hymn of Unity, 12th Century
As I search for words to refresh my soul for this new season, I search His Word for the potential energy necessary to move my heart into position to do His work. These words from Psalm 51:12 The Message  become my prayer: Put fresh wind in my sails! Will you ask Him too? ~dho

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Where's the Proof?"

In the late 1500's and early 1600's, Galileo became a scientist that influenced many areas of mathematics, astronomy, physics and philosophy. A devout Catholic, Galileo's understandings of the universe differed with the accepted view that the earth was the center of the universe and the sun and all planets revolved around the earth. Through his studies and observations, he concluded that the earth revolved around the sun. The Pope and the church leaders thought this was heresy. They believed his theories were contrary to the Holy Scriptures. A Roman Inquisition of Galileo forbid him to speak of these theories. Ultimately, he was put under house arrest for the rest of his life. The scientific truth ~ Galileo's theory which was proven in time ~ eventually provided evidence to those who did not believe. Sometimes, giving proof is hard!

Proof is defined as sufficient evidence for a truth statement. "The Sixth Edition of Black's Law Dictionary" explains burden of proof this way:

"Ei incumbit provatio, qui dicit, non qui negat; cum per rerum naturam factum negantis probatio nulla sit . . . The proof lies upon him who affirms, not upon him who denies; since, by the nature of things, he who denies cannot produce any proof."
Atheists and God-seekers alike want proof of God. Doubt inside our frail humanity shouts its insecurity, "How do you know? What proof do you have? Most often evidence is drawn from our experiences combined with evidence from nature. Even the greatest scholars confess the great mysteries of God exceed explanation. So where's the proof?

WE are the proof - you and me, God's children, those of us who identify with Christ, who call Him Savior. OUR LIVES are the proof that God loves! This very sobering thought raises a new awareness in me. What evidence of Christ does my life offer? Does my life story speak the love of Christ?

Years ago there was a question asked, "What if you are the only Jesus someone sees?" Those who struggle with walking by faith often expect or demand answers to their theological questions. We respond that the Holy Scriptures reveal God and His plan of Grace through faith for all mankind. While we many not understand all that is written within these God-breathed words, God's message of love is clear. As Christians we are to love God and love each other. We are called to love as Christ loves! The way we love becomes the evidence that we understand God's message. We are the proof of His love! ~dho

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Spiritual Dance

A few years ago, I read this book entitled Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer Holland, writer for National Geographic magazine. There are nearly 50 stories of animals who become unlikely friends. From an African elephant and a sheep to the owlet and a greyhound, accounts of varied animal species demonstrating unexpected compassion and friendship spill across the pages, not to mention beautiful photography. One story included of a baby hippo and a 130 year old tortoise made the rounds on Facebook a few years ago! They actually have their own book, Owen and Mzee, A True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. In her observations, Barbara King, animal behaviorist, describes Owen's and Mzee's mutual communication as sophisticated, "It's a dynamic dance between two species with no present program on how to deal with each other. And it can't just be instinct, because one was shaping its behavior to the other."

That a Holy God would choose to have a relationship with me, a broken sinner, simply boggles my imagination. This Amazing Grace pours over the dark and ugly parts of my nature making me a new creation in Him. Christ wraps me in a robe of righteousness inviting me to sit at His Table. Jesus says, "As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Remain in My love." Responding, I confess my inability to be good or to love apart from Christ. A spiritual dance begins between ancient holiness and growing faith. My heart desires to be more like Christ; His love teaching me to love completely, His grace influencing me to live abundantly. The Savior and a sinner ~ this is truly an unlikely friendship,one shaping its behavior to the other. dho

My heart desires to be more like Christ; His love teaching me to love completely, His grace influencing me to live abundantly. ~Donna Oswalt

Thursday, September 08, 2016

September and Childhood Cancer

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and each year we wear GOLD to support the cause. Thomas, my nephew, is a brain cancer survivor. He is now 14, but July 2011 tells a different story, a story of an unimaginable diagnosis but amazing recovery. A freshman in High School, he is active in Boy Scouts earning 15 badges this summer and nearing the rank of Eagle Scout. This summer he joined me and some folks from church on a mission trip to French Camp Academy in Mississippi. He sings with the High School Praise and Worship team at his school, does well academically, and is active in their drama productions. To God be the Glory!

During the difficult days and weeks of diagnosis, surgery, physical therapy, radiation treatments, and recovery, we kept a journal on Caring Bridge. Here is the link if you want to read some of the journal entries (just click here and choose JOURNAL). We love and trust a faithful God. In His choosing to heal Thomas, we can only believe He has even greater plans to come for Thomas' life. During this journey, many we met have not survived their cancer. With each loss comes questions, but we continue to trust an unchanging and loving God who sees a much bigger picture than we can see. This is a link to one journal entry - a time of celebration after a difficult season of treatments and therapy, a time of giving back, and a year of hoping for a complete cure! Happy 11th Birthday! 

Thomas' last MRI in May was clear. He can now reduce the number of scans to one time a year. On November 31, 2016, we will celebrate "5 Years Cancer Clear"! While there will not be a party with a 100 people, the 5th year will be no less of a celebration than the 1st year. Our hearts will be full of gratitude, and our praise will continue to offer glory to God. 

Each year in the U.S. there are an estimated 15,780 children between the ages of birth and 19 years of age who are diagnosed with cancer. Approximately 1 in 285 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. Globally there are more than 250,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year. Every 3 minutes, somewhere in the world a family hears the devastating words that their child has been diagnosed with cancer. 
Here is a video of Thomas' journey with brain cancer and his heart's gratitude for healing!

Friday, September 02, 2016

Make a Difference!

* Summer is coming to a close, and so will "Friday's Summer Fruits" series! It has been good to share random "fruit" during this season of random routines. Thanks for doing some planting and growing this season. Hope your summer has been fruitful; now the harvest time is calling! - dho

My last summer fruit is a book that I just finished by Deidra Riggs called Every Little Thing, with a foreward by Ann Voskamp Last fall I had the lovely experience of sharing a table (and dinner) with Deidra and her delightful mother when I attended a Christian Women's Writers' Conference called Allume. Deidra, an author and speaker, brings the truth as she reminds that God chooses us to do His work. Our excuses are many. Her language convicts us:

We are "just" the car pool lane sitters, the diaper changers, the dish washers, the cubicle workers, the second-job holders, the lawn mowers, the pancake flippers, the rule followers, the occasional Sunday morning churchgoers, the Saturday night Netflixers, the Facebook status updaters, the one-mile joggers, the regular everyday ordinary us. -Deidra Riggs 
Not only does God choose us, He loves us, forgives us, and equips us for the tasks. Riggs tells personal stories that take you from her experience to her revelation about God. She tells it like it is: We either want significance or we want God. We must surrender to God's plan by laying down our personal agendas, the choices we think will look best, the options that others pick for us. 
As long as you maintain your own personal interests and ambitions, you cannot be completely aligned or identified with God's interests. Oswald Chambers 
Deidra, a pastor's wife, writes about being authentic, about being who we are, about living in the present moment, about living "the gospel of Christ". "Christ invites be exactly who we are, in the places we find ourselves, and to be infused with the salty goodness that comes when we surrender our lives and our agendas and our hopes and dreams to the power and the control of the Holy Spirit." Words that encourage and empower fill the pages. Check out Deidra's website which gives you glimpses into her speaking and a new book coming soon! -dho

Deidra Riggs is a blogger, author, speaker. She and her husband live in Nebraska and have two adult children.