Thursday, February 22, 2018

Place of Wisdom - Lent 2018

[Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations…from everlasting to everlasting  Psalm 90:1-2  
During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore God’s Presence, our dwelling place. Are you dwelling in the presence of God? ~ Donna Howell Oswalt]

“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” Psalm 90:1

Commonly credited to Moses, Psalm 90 draws our thoughts to God’s Power in contrast to human frailty. God, everlasting to everlasting, is not bound by time but dwells in eternity; humanity is brief and finite. Verses 7-11 refer to Kadesh Barnea, a place of decision, the beginning of the Israelites’ 40-year journey in the wilderness. This prayer acknowledges their poor decision, lack of faith in God, rebellion, and God’s anger with them. A plea for compassion and restoration follows with an expressed desire to find satisfaction in God’s mercy.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. Our experiences of success and failure, past and present, help prepare us for life, but all of our life experiences collectively prepare our hearts for eternity. Only in realizing a need for God, in trusting the power with God, in searching the wisdom of God, can life be fruitful now and eternal after. Elohim, God of All-Power, grow me with Your compassion and unfailing love. Let wisdom flood my mind. Sometimes life walks, wades, wails, and waits; other times, the days dance, dream, delight, and discover. In all these times, my soul longs to dwell with You forever. Count me alive in Christ. Satisfy me with Your mercy! ~dho

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2014 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author
Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday ~ Jehovah Shammah

[Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations…from everlasting to everlasting  Psalm 90:1-2  
During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore God’s Presence, our dwelling place. Are you dwelling in the presence of God? ~ Donna Howell Oswalt]

“And the name of the city from that time on will be THE LORD IS THERE.”

While living in Babylon in a refugee settlement among the exiled Israelites, the prophet Ezekiel encounters “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it I fell face down, and I heard the voice of one speaking”. Through visions to Ezekiel, God reveals His warnings to an unrepentant Jerusalem, judgments on all nations, hope for Israel, and a New Jerusalem. Most refuse to listen to Ezekiel. Forty-eight chapters and over twenty years later, Ezekiel records as the Sovereign LORD declares, ”And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.”  Jehovah Shammah, Hebrew for ‘The LORD is there,” describes the New Jerusalem, the same city in Revelation 21:3 where God will dwell with His people.

Although idol-worshiping Babylon seems an unlikely place for Israel to find God, He is there. After Christ returns and all Believers live in the New Jerusalem, God will be there, too. God desires to dwell among His people. God’s presence exceeds our finite boundaries of time, location, and circumstance. Lord, today as I come to the altar acknowledging my infinite dependence on Christ, let me leave the altar wearing the ashes as a sign of repentance. Whisper the hope of THE LORD IS THERE into my brokenness, into my disappointment, into my weakness, into my silence, into my vanity, into my prayers.  Count me alive in Christ. Jehovah Shammah!  Amen ~ dho

All rights reserved ~ used with permission of the author
Copyright 2014 by Donna Oswalt/Co-Founder of Mangrove Ministries/Christian blogger and author
Breathing Room For My Soul (blog) Follow on Twitter @soulchat

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

LENT Begins Tomorrow!

[Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations…from everlasting to everlasting  
Psalm 90:1-2  

Lent begins tomorrow, Ash Wednesday. I pray this will be a season your soul finds new intimacy with Christ. I will be posting weekly this year, and hope you will find spiritual renewal in God’s presence! -dho

During this season of reflection and renewal, join me, and let's explore God’s Presence, our dwelling place. Are you dwelling in the presence of God? ~ Donna Howell Oswalt]

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Rest in Prayer

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

The world is full of noise and busyness, all competing at the same time for the same 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 ~ rest in the silence. Listen to the words of Jesus; seek Him in the silence ~ learn [His] unforced rhytms of grace~dho

Thursday, February 01, 2018

The Always of Prayer

Throw-Back-Thursday's popularity fills our Thursdays. Along with its hash tags, pictures of yester-year dance across out computer screens, mobile phones, and tablets. Frequently the hair styles and clothing reveal the era. We laugh, usually, or moan, sometimes. Today I open my #TBT Bible, my name and the date 4/13/77 on the inside cover. Back in the day, unlike now, few translations of the Bible were available other than the King James Version. "The Living Bible" translation broke the rules by using current vernacular, much the way we appreciate The Message today. The words and the order of the words sounded friendly, more familiar to the ear. The Living Bible, while popular with teenagers, did not thrill the adults. Whatever your thoughts or preferences are about various translations of the Holy Bible, I believe God always uses His words to inspire, to convict, to reveal His Goodness and Grace.
#TBT High School, 1973

Reading today from Romans in The Living Bible, God's word tells it straight. Listen to some of the verses from Chapter 12Be honest in your estimate of yourselves...we belong to each other, and each needs all the others. God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. And further down, Don't just pretend that you love others; really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other. These very valuable words remind us our connectedness in Christian community. These words are not just for #TBT!

Life is messy! We wait, longing for time to pass more quickly then hurry to what is next. Hurt and disappointment become friends we wish we didn't know. Doubt shouts! Hypocrisy mocks! But, God always sees the bigger picture, sees beyond what our minds cannot understand. Using my #TBT Bible, I find these words: Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always. (Romans 12:12) I did not read other translations or search commentaries (none in the #TBT Bible), did not research Greek origins of the words or look for cross references. I simply let my prayer echo His inspired words: With a grateful heart, God, I trust You are planning something good for me. In times of trouble, help me be patient. Every moment of every day, my prayers rise to You. I long to spend time with You ~ listening, resting, waiting, learning, loving. Amen! ~dho

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Power of Prayer

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NASB

"The key to this home, this heart of God. is prayer." Foster

Prayer, by definition,  is an intercession, petition, or supplication. Scripture contains many prayers of faithful leaders and followers of God, prayers for healing, direction, peace, strength, forgiveness, wisdom, security, provision. Multiple passages in the Bible reveal Jesus alone in prayer and praying for others. Prayer comes from the lips of doubters and those in need, from hearts frozen with fear and unbelievers reborn, from the sick and weary, from those in desperate situations, from sinners like me. Believers are called to prayer, to never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to pray in the Spirit, to pray with perseverance, to pray for each other. Richard Foster in Sanctuary of the Soul calls prayer "interactive communication and communion with God".
"Prayer is change...interior transformation...into ministry..." Richard Foster, Prayer**
Prayer exceeds inward pleas in desperate times and evolves from a place deeper than need, comes from the soul's core where faith calls out to Hope! Our prayers call out to God exposing our broken hearts, our fragile egos, our emptiest places. Prayer should acknowledge complete dependence on God, and when words fail, the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) Spiritual posture of prayer must embody both humility and honesty, exhibit reverence for God's majesty and trust in God's mystery. Prayer should become the Christian's constant inside activity that is evidenced in outward living. Prayer should transform us into bearers of His Light. Holy Spirit, teach me to pray~dho

** I highly recommend Richard Foster's book, "Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home"

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Example of Prayer

Give us day by day our daily bread. Luke 11:3 NKJV

On the way up to Jerusalem the Disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Eugene Peterson writes, “This is the only time in the Gospels that the disciples ask to be taught.” By now, the disciples seem to grasp that prayer means developing a relationship with God, not mere ritual or religious posturing, common among the Pharisees. Witnessing Jesus praying aloud and praying alone, these men want a better understanding of prayer. Jesus responds with an example of proper petition that includes worship, provision, and forgiveness.

Starting with worship, a person should acknowledge God: Father, holy authority and sovereign, come. In this example of prayer, like in the Sermon on the Mount, give us daily bread represents every-day-manna, asking God to meet each day’s basic physical needs. Jesus tells the disciples to ask God to forgive personal sins; likewise, then forgive others. Ask God for help to resist evil. Prayer opens the heart to recognize one’s daily dependence on God.

Lord, humbled to think of all than is beyond my ability, I praise Your holy name, for You are full of power. I need daily bread, both to nourish my body and my soul. Forgive my failures, my arrogance that holds others accountable for my mistakes, that uses others to cover my faults. Protect me from evil. Lord, always give us this bread-dho

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Language of Prayer

Prayer takes many forms but it is always a spiritual communion with God, a two-way conversation, both speaking and listening required. The language of prayer is full of whispers, SHOUTS, and groans! Thomas Merton's reflection on prayer is this: "Prayer is an expression of who we are... We are living incompleteness. We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfillment.”

As you contemplate "prayer" and what it means, ask yourself a few questions. Is my prayer life satisfying? Do I sense the presence of God in my prayer time? What is necessary for me to develop a richer prayer life? As I ponder these questions, I find room for a deeper relationship desired but sometimes neglected. I encourage you to keep a devotional/prayer journal. Any size or style that fits your personality will do. I use mine to record devotional thoughts, to keep words or phrases or quotes I read in my study time, and as a place to write prayer requests, mine and others. Sometimes I write out my prayers, not always. This week I share a prayer I wrote several years ago infused by one Scripture verse. Praying God's word is always prayer! - dho

I get up in the middle of the night to thank You;    Your decisions are so right, so true - I can't wait    till morning!  Psalm 119:62

Loving God,
    The night sky is filled with luminaries that light the darkness.  Angels whisper evening songs to my weary soul. I do not notice. As sleep gently calls, I forget that I have breathed the morning air, listened to laughter, seen the evening sky appear. Another day!  
     Something disturbs the rhythm of my sleep, summons my soul.  In these sleepless moments, the Holy Spirit is waiting and listens for my response. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!  
    Father, when I fail to see the beauty of Your day, remind me with a glorious morning to take my breath away, a soul-laugh that only a listening heart can find, and a night sky crowded with stars like diamonds that demand a lingering look. My heart should burst with unmeasured thankfulness! These are Your ordinary gifts! I simply miss them in the hectic hours and scheduled chaos and saturated time.  
    Give my heart the desire to breathe, to listen and to see the ordinary with extraordinary intention. Grant my soul the desire to breathe, to listen and to see Your Extraordinary Gifts of Love, Grace, and Joy! Let me find Your extravagant gifts in every day! Let me say Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
    Refresh my spirit! Refine my faith! Restore my love! Renew my strength! Rebuild my trust! Reclaim my soul!  Amen.  ~dho

Monday, January 01, 2018

A New Year!

"Oh, the unspeakable benediction of the 'treasures of darkness'! It is not the days of sunshine and splendor and liberty and light that leave their lasting and indelible effect upon the soul, but those nights of the Spirit in which, shadowed by God's hand, hidden in the dark cleft of some rock in a weary land, He lets the splendors of the outskirts of Himself pass before our gaze."    
Oswald Chambers
As another year begs a moment of reflection on its treasures, this quote from Chambers catches my interest. His reference to benediction causes my soul to wonder how often I seek His splendor surrounding my "treasures of darkness". 

A benediction, an ending for a religious ceremony or service, frequently looks to the future with a blessing of hope and peace or an offering of thanksgiving or praise. Chambers seems to be referring to an end of a season of difficulty, reminding that the deepest marks upon the soul, the most hurtful scars do not come from easy times. These times of darkness often grieve us, leaving the soul with "unspeakable" endings and umimagined grace.

While not dwelling on the dark times, my soul hears such grace in knowing that God is with me at all times. Chambers' words clearly depict God's glory coming to us as we struggle "in a weary land". Like God's cloud by day and fire by night dwelling with the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years, God's splendor surrounds us, goes before us, comforts us with His presence. The majesty of God creates a border that envelops our human condition. What glory to behold is ours!

A new year summons each of us into the days and weeks and months to come. How will I consume this time? What will I surrender to God? Who will I engage with goodwill? Where will I encounter Jesus?  When will my confidence in God be consistent? We each have 365 days, 52 weeks, and 8,760 hours to use during this new year. At the end of 2018, what testimony will my life reveal? How will my soul write its annual benediction? Happy New Year!! I pray that 2018 will be a year of joy and peace in knowing the splendor and majesty of God's presence. - dho

Sunday, December 24, 2017

4th Sunday of Advent - Perfect Love for the Weak - Advent 2017

"Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night... and the glory of The Lord shone around them... For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ The Lord... You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger..." Luke 2:8-20

In Hidden Christmas Timothy Keller writes, "Every other religion and moral philosophy tells you to summon up all your strength and live as you ought. Therefore, they appeal to the strong, to the people who can pull it together." He goes on to remind us that "Only Jesus" says, "I have come for the weak... those who admit they are weak. I will save them not by what they do but through what I do." Christmas celebrates God's holy plan for all of us who find ourselves emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted, those of us who are weary from trying too hard to achieve, wasted from seeking too long to aquire, worn from waiting too often for affirmation. Jesus comes to the stable first, to the poor, to the weak, to those who are overlooked by society.

Christmas means that the King has come into the world. But the Bible tells us that Jesus comes as King twice, not once. The second time he will come in power in order to end all evil, suffering, and death. The first time - the Christmas coming - he came not in strength but in weakness, to a poor family in a stable." Timothy Keller, from Hidden Christmas 

In the Christmas Story, shepherds of simple faith and willing to respond are key figures, but society calls them unworthy and unreliable. The shepherds come with haste and find Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. After seeing the baby Jesus, the shepherds go and make widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. Do I see others through God's eyes or accept society's view? Am I willing to recognize Jesus in the least, the simple, the broken? Aren't we ALL unclean, sinners who are unworthy? Yet, God chooses each of us ~ rich or poor, scholar or laborer, old or young, thriving or hopeless, struggling or defeated! God invites each of us to come and meet Christ The Lord ~Perfect Love, Lamb of God, Amazing Grace!  ~dho