Thursday, November 16, 2017

In His Presence - Gratitude



I'm still in Your presence, but You've taken my hand. You wisely lead me, and then You bless me. Psalm 73:23-24 (msg)


Holy Father,
Everlasting Light forgive my redundant thoughts. Unfailing Love rescue my reluctant heart. Extravagant Grace fill my repentant soul. Goodness surrounds my every moment, exceeding my vocabulary. You continue to weave an extraordinary tapestry with sacred threads, torn remnants and unspun fibers. All are being woven together by Your Light and Love and Grace. What a masterpiece You are creating - thread by thread, moment by moment, possibility by possibility. Gratitude shouts Hallelujah! A thousand Hallelujahs are not enough. On my knees, LORD, find me on my knees, for You are Great and worthy to be praised! Your presence delights my soul, encourages my spirit, mends my wounds, shows me truth, offers me peace. Lord, be my strength, my shield, my joy! I long to abide in Your presence. Amen.
 ~dho


Thursday, November 09, 2017

For He is Good! - Gratitude

God is the LORD,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifices with cords
to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, 
for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.


As we enter this season of gratitude, let us reflect upon the abundant blessings that fill the moments of life. The heart experiences immense gratitude from unexpected words that whisper love and inside surprises that shout joy and within unspoken thoughtfulness. In between the obvious and outside the margins, threads of possibility weave scenes of goodness and generosity and grace. While grand gestures and catastrophic calamities stand alone and unforgotten, these small and simple pleasures embrace the soul with wordless glimpses of heaven. As silence surrounds, we must bring these most sacred offerings to the His altar with abundant thanksgiving. Within these holy moments, God draws us deeper into His Presence. Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. ~dho

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You - Gratitude

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. I whisper, Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! 

 


Holy 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 bursts with unmeasured thankfulness!  
These are Your ordinary gifts! I simply miss them in my
hectic hours, my scheduled chaos, my saturated time.

Give my heart the desire to breathe,
listen, and see the ordinary with extraordinary 
intention. Grant my soul the desire to breathe,
listen, and see Your Extraordinary Gifts of
Love, Grace, and Joy! Let me seek Your
extravagant gifts in every day! 

Let me shout, Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

Refresh my spirit! Refine my faith! 
Restore my love! Renew my strength!  
Rebuild my trust! Reclaim my soul! 

To God be the glory! Amen.  ~dho   

Thursday, October 26, 2017

"God-chosen...Splendid Friends"

"Keep me safe, O God, I've run for dear life to You. I say to GOD, "Be my Lord!" Without You, nothing makes sense. And these God-chosen lives all around - what splendid friends they make!" Psalm 16:1-3 The Message





These last months, I have shared my thoughts and studies about friendship, with God and with others, and His friendship with us. When I happened upon this picture, I wondered how closely we cherish the friendships God gives us. My grandmother made me this "dancing doll". If you look carefully, you can see the elastic straps that attached the dancing doll to my feet. We moved together, no matter how or where, when or why I moved, connected and certain. I love the way The Message  describes the people that God gives to us on earth. I want to share something from Macrina Weiderkehr's book A Tree Full of Angels.

It is difficult to fathom the potential of each person you meet. This depth and potential are like treasures hidden in a field... When your depth meets the depth of another, what a sacrament that can be... The heart cannot live without intimacy. We all need special people in our lives to whom we can show our souls... How do you feed your friendships?

In our relationships, with others and with God, opportunities wait for knowing and being known. Although God knows us completely, He desires us to come to Him. With prayer and mediatation and through reading the Living Word of the Holy Bible, our relationship grows ever deeper with the Lord. The same goes for friendships. Spending time together, sharing thoughts, being there for each other, and praying for one another, the friendships God chooses for us begin to evolve - even when we don't expect friendship. The words "God-chosen" and "splendid" perfectly describe divine friendships in my life, even when I was not looking for such. 

Making God Lord, the One we choose first, gives us a joy that exceeds the boundaries of the heart. The Amplified Bible says Psalm 16:11 this way: In Your presence is fullness of joy. During this series, I pray you have examined your relationship with God and each other. I hope you will spend some time reading David's psalm, listening for God's promises, praising God for being our refuge, our inheritance, our secuirity. "You will make known to me the path of life." I'll conclude with a variation on Macrina's question - How do you feed your God-chosen, splendid friendships?  -dho

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Jesus, Friend of Sinners - Series on Friendship

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.

Opposition to the ministry of Jesus, which the scribes and Pharisees join, intensifies. Jesus responds to obvious hostility from the religious establishment. Selfish and stubborn describe the actions of those rejecting His ministry. Because Jesus has dinner with everyday, ordinary folk, with "tax collectors and sinners", He is accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.** Enduring religious and political ridicule and ultimately physical violence, Jesus, Friend of sinners, continues to seek those in need of spiritual healing. 

Today's times mirror this period in Greco-Roman civilization. Just as Jesus speaks to the growing crowds in the villages, He calls to the masses all over the earth. Both then and now, people are too busy or too tired, critical and calculating, looking for escapes or making up excuses. People are still consumed with fear and desperate for hope. The world stands in stark contrast to God's Kingdom. Jesus, Friend of sinners, continues to seek those in need of spiritual healing.

Jesus says wisdom will reveal her own results. What is this wisdom? Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced! You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work, treating each other with dignity and honor. [James 3:17-18 The Message] If I, a sinner, am a friend of Jesus, then my life will reveal Jesus in my acts and deeds. Jesus, Friend of sinners, break my heart for what breaks Yours.  ~ dho 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Greatest Friendship - Series on Friendship

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:7-8 NLT



During the Greco-Roman times that Jesus teaches about loving, forgiving and serving others, genuine sacrifice of one's life for another is as rare as the concept of "a good man". This kind of heroic act would not be common, and for the Jewish people, this kind of offering would not be praised. When the Greeks talk about enemies becoming friends after some conflict, these conversations stay within the context of individuals and certainly did not include God. Jesus enters this culture, introduces the idea of reconciliation between a person and God, and offers His own relationship with God, the Father, as an example of divine fellowship. Jesus says, I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love.

Jesus not only describes the blessings of fellowship with God but willing lays down His own life for His friends. As Jesus tells the Disciples, There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends, He knows that in a few hours He will live out these words. But for whom? What friends? For those who beat Him and those who nail Him to the cross, for those who watch and mock, for those who fled in fear and hide, for those barter for His robe, for the liars and hypocrites, for the selfish and greedy, for the lazy and defiant, for the sick - the weak - the poor, for the healthy - the strong - the rich, for the leaders and the followers, the merchants and the farmers, the scholars and the students, for those who steal and murder and commit adultery, for those who hate and those who pretend not to care, for those who smile and pretend not to grieve, for the hopeless and helpless, the homeless, the orphan, the widow, for the elderly, for the children...for those then and those to come, for you...for me? Yes... for all!

Dying for someone upstanding or even good remains a rare, heroic act. Perfect Love lay down His life for the unworthy, the unclean, the sinner, the shunned. No person is worthy of such love, but Jesus chooses us. When Grace meets the enemy, possibilities are endless. This holy relationship can exceed all expectations. Grace invites each of us, I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in My love. This is the greatest Friendship~dho

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Fruit-Full Friendship - Series on Friendship

"You didn't choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give you." John 15:16 CEB

For Jesus, friendship with the Father and His disciples implied shared understanding and commitment to a common, higher purpose.(Doyle Theimer) 
Jesus chooses us and then assigns us the task of producing lasting fruit. As the Holy Spirit infuses the soul with righteous living, a new nature with new characteristics evolve.Being ambassadors for Christ, we must accurately represent Him. The depth of our relationship with Christ is expressed in our relationships with others. Jesus invites us into a radial faith and reveals infinite possibilities. 
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23
Faithfulness to the Father, obedience to Christ, and response to the Spirit produces a fruit-full garden. These fruits of the Spirit become our testimony, our mission, our common purpose with Christ. In sharing these fruits with others, the door to God's intention swings wide to righteous living. Henri Nouwen gives clarity to Jesus choosing us with we are called to give our very lives to one another and that, in so doing, we become a true community of love. Jesus chooses us to be fruit-full friends, and promises us a personal, intimate relationship that exceeds imagination! ~ dho

We are called to give our very lives to one another and that, in so doing, 
we become a true community of love. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Friendship Betrayed - Series on Friendshp

"It is not an enemy who taunts me - I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me - I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you - my equal, my companion and close friend. What good fellowship we enjoyed as we walked together in the house of God." Psalm 55:12-14 NLT

David's psalm laments his personal betrayal by a close friend, someone he trusts, someone with whom he shares his faith. The greatest wounds inflicted are not usually from an adversary but from the betrayal of a close companion. Within personal relationships, when disloyalty reaches deep and undermines trust, pain sits with disbelief. Deception is an intimate violation.

Betrayal can threaten to sway political powers for personal gain. For example, the Jewish leaders taunt Pilate, "If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar," suggesting that convicting Jesus of a crime and sentencing Him to death would prove Pilate more popular with Caesar. In the continued betrayal of Jesus and with great hypocrisy, the chief priests even declare that Caesar is their only king! Duplicity creates confusion and conflict.

When injustice is exposed, self-righteousness and guilt meet. Jesus endures the slander of those who deny His truth mocking Him as a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Jesus tells those who choose to believe and follow Him, they,too, will know betrayal from family and friends and even death. Jesus experiences the betrayal by one of His own disciples. Unfaithfulness joins rebellion, and friendship is betrayed with a kiss.

Scripture tells us that having a friendship with the world makes us an enemy of God. The world has no loyalty and will always betray us with false security and corrupt truth. In desperation, we firmly position our hopes while holding buckets of excuses and juggling platters of expectations. Jesus waits for us. Jesus chooses us. Jesus calls us. There is no deception or duplicity in Jesus. Simply come to Jesus as a sinner and become a friend of God~dho

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sacrifice for Friendship ~ Series on Friendship

With Jesus' help, let us continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by proclaiming the glory of His name. Hebrews 13:15 NLT


Frequently sacrifice is mentioned in the Old Testament, usually relating to offerings at the Temple for atonement and thanksgiving. As Jews around the world soon prepare to celebrate Yom Kippur (September 29-30, 2017), the most holy of the Jewish holy days, they fast and pray while reflecting upon past sins and seeking forgiveness. Celebrating this Day of Atonement reminds them of God's faithful provision and redemption for His chosen people. 

For Christians, we understand this OT teaching to foreshadow Christ, the Messiah, who becomes our sacrifice, our atonement for sin. Through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus - God's Perfect Lamb - God's greatest offering - we can be spiritually reconciled to God; God redeems us through the sacrifice of Christ and invites us into a personal relationship with Christ.

Scripture uses the Greek word thysia which relates to "the offering of a sacrifice" such as in the Jewish Temple, but it extends to "other kinds of Christian offerings, such as a 'sacrifice of praise'".(1) This kind of sacrifice is offered with attitudes of thanksgiving and gratitude, through acts of kindness and service; it is a reflection of the heart's generosity in relationship to God. Sacrifice of praise defines the depth of our friendship with the Lord. 

Just as the animals sacrificed on the Day of Atonement in the OT were to be burned outside the camp, so Jesus had to be crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem. We too are called to step outside, to live above the world's standards. Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. . .So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. [2 Peter 1:3-7 The Message] Our daily response to this Holy Friendship should be to proclaim God's Divine Love with sacrifices of praise. ~ dho

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Faithful Friendship - Series on Friendship

"No one has greater love [no one shows stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends." John 15:13 AMP


Among the ancient Greeks, according to Biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson, "friendship was among the most discussed, analyzed, and highly esteemed relationships." In many Greco-Roman stories, dying for the sake of friendship speaks to strong moral character, heroic but rare. Jesus tells His circle of friends how much He loves them and with the cross, proves that amazing love. Even in suffering, Jesus remains faithful.

Examples of God's faithfulness can be seen throughout the Bible. In 2 Timothy 2:13 Scripture reminds that even in our unfaithfulness, God is faithful. When Jesus says, "but I have called you friends," He is sharing more than heartfelt emotions. Jesus reveals His relationship with God the Father and shares this deep intimacy with His chosen friends. This intimate friendship between God and a few fishermen in Galilee over 2,000 years ago remains the model for Christians today. A rare, faithful Friend, Jesus demonstrates the greatest love, the strongest affection for every person with His willingness to endure the cross. This holy gift of faithful friendship is designed to be shared with others. ~ dho

Thursday, September 07, 2017

An Unlikely Friendship ~ Series on Friendship

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double minded. James 4:8 NASB 





In the 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 friendshipone 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