Thursday, February 20, 2020

Joy - 2020 Words to Refresh the Soul

Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O LORD, God of hosts. 



In Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, he writes that joy is a mark of the “authentic Christian . . . [one who is] on the way of salvation. Joy is characteristic of Christian pilgrimage.” Peterson continues, “Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence . . . it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience.” Jeremiah’s words reflect the decision to live in God’s abundance. Despite circumstances, God is constant and certain. His word speaks to us today, just as it did to Jeremiah.

"The inevitable result of genuine salvation is joy! The joy found in Christ is like an inexhaustible well, satisfying the most desperate thirst." [Blackaby Study Bible Notes] As you journey through your current season, are you finding Real JOY? If not, perhaps you are looking in the wrong places. You don't have to wander alone in the dry, dark places. The Holy One is here! Christ is Real JOY! Let the promises of God mark you with joy!

Lord, Your words have been recorded for me, gathered to encourage me, endured to restore me. Increase my faith so I can see Your abundant blessings in all times. Let Your Joy be my joy to share! - dho

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Compassion - 2020 Words to Refresh the Soul

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and come to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and then he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave then to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and what ever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' [Jesus asks] "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" [the expert in the law said] "the one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."
Luke 10:33-37 NASB






In one of the most familiar parables in the Bible, the Good Samaritan, Jesus takes us to the virtual scene of the crime. There on the side of a treacherous section of a winding, steep, rocky road between Jerusalem and Jericho well known for its perpetrators, the victim lays unconscious, bleeding and left for dead. Jesus describes two others who pass but neglect to help the man. The third passer-by stops. A Samaritan, having compassion on the man, bandages his wounds, takes him to the nearest inn, cares for him, pays the innkeeper for future needs, and plans to check on him when returning home. Jesus' investigation asks us, "So, who saw the need and responded? Who demonstrates true compassion? Who was able to love without judgement?"

Jesus draws us into this senseless brutality, calls us out of our comfort zones, shows us how we are to love others. As always, political correctness tries to give its answer - or excuse - for not helping. After all, the priest follows the law keeping himself "religiously clean" while the Levite, too, keeps about his religious responsibilities. Jesus reaches beyond mere religious order and steps directly into a cultural and societal conflict. The Samaritan helping the victim crosses all kinds of social barriers; the centuries old mutual hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans highlights a dilemma. Jesus asks if we really see the needs of people or pretend not to notice. Jesus asks if we truly love others like He loves or just quote Bible verses about God's love? Jesus asks if we have genuine compassion for people or attempt to evaluate according to race, gender, or creed? 

Listening to this investigation does not tell us anything about the injured person. We do not know if he simply falls prey to some robbers, or perhaps, he, too, is a thief himself who loses an argument with a fellow robber. On this road known for crime and opportunity, hurt finds a helping hand. Every day we take a similar journey. Sometimes disappointment targets us; other times, need calls from the other side of the road. Sometimes we are overlooked or excluded; other times, unexpected love sees beyond public opinion. Jesus calls us to lay down outward appearances and stop beside need. Jesus calls each of us to develop compassionate hearts and unselfish spirits, to love fully and unconditionally. Reach beyond; go and do the same~dho


Thursday, February 06, 2020

Gratitude - 2020 Words to Refresh the Soul

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, January 30, 2020

Hope - 2020 Words to Refresh the Soul



I pray to GOD - my life a prayer -
and wait for what He'll say and do.


The Living Bible uses these words ~ I wait expectantly, trusting God for help, for He has promised. When we wait expectantly, that is called hope! In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction Eugene Peterson writes this about Psalm 130 and hope:

Hoping . . . means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions. . . It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying.

[Hope] is imagination put in the harness of faith . . . a willingness to let God do it His way and in His time.

Is it our lack of trusting in God's faithful promises or our cynicism towards hope that binds us to despair? Do we worry more about not being able to control circumstances than confidently going about our assigned tasks? Allowing God to work in His way and in His time often requires us to wait. By studying the Scriptures and through prayer, our relationship with God grows; our understanding of His character increases. In His presence we find a peace within the uncertainty; we are embraced by His comfort through the waiting. We must wait expectantly on God ~ the One who is Faithful, who is Promise, who is HOPE! 

Gracious LORD,
I come to the altar shouting praise for
all the blessings in my life. You are the Light
that writes the words of my soul-song. It is
You that gives my heart its desires. You are Hope!
Faithful Father, I am God-strong; my blessings
abundantly exceed my needs. Creator, gather the
details of my life, take Your holy threads and weave
a tapestry of Your design. . . You transcend all
circumstances, expose all evil, reveal all love but
never measure Grace. I am God-strengthened! ~dho


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Sincerity - 2020 Words to Refresh the Soul

Only those who are innocent and who do what is right. Such people speak the truth from their hearts and so not tell lies about others. They do no wrong to their neighbors and do not gossip. They do not respect hateful people but honor those who honor the LORD. They keep their promises to their neighbors, even when it hurts. They do not charge interest on money they lend and do not take money to hurt innocent people. Whoever does all these things will never be destroyed. Psalm 15:3-5 NCV 



Christians demonstrate their relationship and fellowship with God in the everyday, ordinary, getting-up, going-to-work, having-lunch, sitting-in-car line, helping-with-homework, cleaning-the-kitchen-again activities. Worshiping God is not confined to the church building. When our inner integrity merges with our outward sincerity, the heart reveals its true intimacy with Jesus. Desiring to serve or wanting to love, wishing for faith or longing for hope, simply is not enough. Behavior becomes the thermometer for our worship. Integrity exceeds doing what is right by doing it for the right reason. Sincerity has only room for truth, honor, and love. Are you lukewarm?

"In the stillness, our false, busy selves are unmasked and seen for the imposer they truly are." Richard Foster, Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home 
If we take inventory of our behavior, what will we find? What happens when we remove our masks? Our exposed frailties and bare excuses reveal control, busyness, apathy, carelessness, greed, prejudice, rationalization, self-consciousness, fear, anxiety and more. The simplicity of Psalm 15 lays out the characteristics for one who desires to abide in God's presence, to live with sincerity of His purpose. So, take off the masks. Work, speak, and think, making Christ the center of your intentions.
"He who does these things will never be shaken." NASB
This phrase, a promise of a faithful God, appears at least 8 times in Psalms and Proverbs.The Hebrew word mot describes something that "falters, falls, shakes, slips, or staggers." With these last words, God reminds us that our completeness in Him; He is our sure foundation. In our weaknesses, we are certain to falter, likely to fall, sometimes shake, and frequently stagger; yet,  God embraces our frailties and failures with mercy. God calls us, first, into His holiness to restore our inward integrity, then reveals Himself to others through our outward sincerity. God calls us to walk among the bruised and broken, sit beside the outcasts and overlooked, encourage the frail and fallen. We are to do this with sincere hearts in the name of Jesus, knowing we will never be shaken. ~dho

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Presence - 2020 Words to Refresh the Soul

All His glory and beauty come from within, and there He delights to dwell. 
His visits are frequent, His conversations sweet, His comforts refreshing: 
His peace passing all understanding.
Thomas Kempis

“The LORD replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” Exodus 33:14


From the beginning in the garden, God desires an intimate relationship and divine fellowship with His people. At 75 years of age, Abraham leaves Haran in obedience to God’s call to a Promised Land. His response in faith to God would be blessed many times over; witnesses testify, “God is with you in all that you do.” Joseph, sold into slavery by his own brothers, is imprisoned in Egypt, but Scripture recounts, “the Lord is with him in prison,” protecting and providing. Joseph becomes a ruler in Egypt, saves the people from famine, including his own brothers. Moses leads the Israelites from captivity in Egypt across the Red Sea, a miracle of God. Throughout the next 40 years, God repeatedly demonstrates His promise to Moses and to His people, “My presence will go with you.” Despite the separation of God and mankind by sin, He still longs to be in relationship with us.

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can boldly enter the Most Holy Place. Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. [Hebrews 10:22] Through Christ’s sacrifice, the intimate relationship between God and us is restored. How do we know our dwelling place is truly in God’s Presence? A genuine response to God must exceed our personal desires. Stepping out with faithful obedience to Christ’s example to love and encourage others will reveal our heart’s true resting place.

Philip Yancey, in his book Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference, "keeping company with God involves two parties, and I have an important role to play in the relationship." There are those people who seem content with a superficial relationship with God, those who settle for less. Some people deeply desire a growing faith walk with God, some who long for more. God is waiting for those who want to experience an intimate relationship with Him. In God's Presence, the Believer is called by name, feels His nearness, and can hear Him speak, face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. In Christ, Unmeasured Grace and unspeakable joy fuse in unrestrained fellowship! I want MORE of this! What do you want?  ~dho 




Thursday, January 09, 2020

New Year, New Energy

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

A NEW year is here! Christmas memories along with decorations and last year's decisions are packed away. The Christmas tree has been repacked or recycled; the gifts received have merged into our routines. As a new year 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.

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
I search for words to refresh my soul in this new year, and I search His Word for the potential energy necessary to move my heart into position to do His work. These words from Romans 15:4 from The Message become my first calling this new year: God wants the combination of His steady, constant calling and warm personal counsel in Scriptures to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever He will do next. Will you seek God’s calling too? ~dho

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!


So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 NLT

“Just as our Lord came into human history from the outside, so He must come into us from the outside. Have we allowed our personal human lives to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God?” - Oswald Chambers 
Be a "Bethlehem"... Merry Christmas! - dho/2019


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Advent 2019 - Love


“The Christmas story… begins with
the always coming of Christ.”
Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

In this season of welcoming Christ, we discover more than angels’ revelations or shepherds’ testimonies or magi’s offerings. The coming of Christ begins as a promise and ends with a promise. God promises a Messiah, prophets foretell of the coming of Christ, angels announce the birth of Christ into the world, and Christ promises His coming again. From before time begins and until time ends, the always coming of Christ seeks all peoples with indescribable love!

 
The coming of Christ marks a permanent place in history’s timeline, marks the beginning of a spiritual transformation for humanity. He comes bringing salvation to all – for kings and outcasts, for rich and poor; Christ‘s love has no preferences for race or gender, for social status or cultural origin. He is not defined by person or place. On that mysteriously, miraculous night, the coming of Christ begins to change the people, one simple shepherd at a time. Good News of great joy for all people comes as a gift of Perfect Love.

This Christmas ~ listen for the peace of Christ in quiet whispers and simple laughter, find His joy in a friend’s embrace, celebrate the love of Christ with sacred songs, and experience everlasting hope in the always coming of Christ. In the New Year, may we live the Christmas story with greater love for others. ~dho


Monday, December 16, 2019

Advent 2019 - Joy


“And when [the shepherds] had seen [the baby],
they made know the statement which had been
told them about this Child. And all who heard it
wondered at the things which were told them by
the shepherds.” Luke 2:17-18



From generation to generation, from the secular to the sacred, traditions find their way into our families, even our hearts. From pagan Yuletide songs to Advent chants, Christmas music leads the way. Tradition, the Latin tradere, literally means ‘to hand over’ or ‘holding on to a previous time.’ Certainly in centuries past, the traditions of retelling the stories provide insights into history and cultures. Before the written Scriptures, people would keep telling the stories to every generation, remembering all God’s goodness and faithfulness. Today, lighting the Advent candles retell the familiar Christmas story with hope and peace and joy and love. Tradition.

What are your Christmas traditions? Perhaps decorating the Christmas tree with memories, setting up the Nativity, preparing well-loved recipes, lighting the Advent candles, or attending Christmas programs come to mind. Some celebrate on Christmas Eve while some wait until Christmas morning to open presents. My daddy always made ambrosia every Christmas Eve. I never liked to eat it but I do remember the joy he seemed to get from cutting the oranges and mixing the cherries and coconut together. Since 1979, our family has made special Christmas cookies, a favorite tradition! 

Traditions can change over time, replaced or revised for another time, a new beginning. While it’s often hard to let go of our most cherished customs, we continue keeping traditions. These special moments build foundations for our future generations. Even if our celebrations look different, we will remember seeing the outside lights flooding the trees, smelling fresh cut Fraser Fir Christmas trees, eating decorated cookies and marinated shrimp, loving Christmas Eve Open House after church, and feeling Christmas morning joy. Over time, we may gather in different places, coming and going as life demands, but we will always unwrap laughter and treasure time together, as we celebrate Christ! A Hallmark quote from the season echoes, “Traditions are the stories that families write together.” We must keep writing those stories because they will remember the joy!  dho