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.

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.