Thursday, July 09, 2020

Making Lemonade!

We all need some positive and uplifting thoughts and stories to remind us of God’s goodness and simple joys. It’s that time of year when kids set up homemade lemonade stands! I think if possible, you should always stop and buy a cup of innocence and hope and entrepreneurship. The smiles they return will be pure bonus! Below you will find a sweet and not-so-usual story of my nephew’s lemonade stand. 

Designed in the spring of 2009, Thomas drew his plans for his idea. Together, Thomas and his dad built it the summer of 2009, with Thomas doing all the painting and lettering. This Lemonade Stand served countless everyday boys and girls, moms and dads, strangers and friends, police officers and sheriffs and soldiers, and probably a few dogs. It proudly stood summer after summer on the side of the road just off Main Street in Raeford, NC and spent the winters just off ‘Me’s Road‘ (in the back yard!).

Not many can claim such distinctions, but this Lemonade Stand has been in a parade, traveled to fundraising events, appeared in several newspaper articles, and raised money for child development and a church’s new building; it brought awareness to Childhood Cancer and celebrated God’s healing! Even after several updates and fresh coats of varnish, sadly, its time came to an end. Immeasurable memories remain, and the ordinary days of selling lemonade will always echo a time to dream, a time to plan, a time to build, a time of simplicity, a time of purpose, a time of joy, a time of innocence, a time of moving forward… dho



Thomas is now an Eagle Scout, High School Honor Graduate, and college bound this fall! 

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Freedom of “We the People”

Today is the 4th of July, the day America celebrates independence, remembers the signing of the  Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776when "the Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America". For those citizens of America, this was the beginning, the foundation of independence. We don't celebrate the the Constitution, signed September 17, 1787, the written footprint of freedom and liberty that empowered and outlined the responsibilities of "We the people". Those beginnings and struggles to define freedom have been followed by decades of great efforts and epic failures to live out this kind of freedom. America is not about a particular place or group of people, rather America is "a radical and unprecedented idea, based upon liberty and freedom for all". (Eric Metaxas, If You Can Keep It)


In reading Eric Metaxas’ book If You Can Keep It, The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, one finds a combination of choices and conflicts within the promises of liberty. The founders of America's document of freedom, The Constitution, believed that "the idea of total religious freedom was paramount." Metaxas writes about freedom and liberty, government and self-government, about virtue and love of country all being part of what formed America's ideals of freedom and what "we the people" must value. He speaks to the fragility of freedom and the uniqueness of America's government. Metaxas describes the heart of America as "the idea of living for others - of showing them a new way of living." We the people of America have often failed each other, lived too often and too long among the brokenness.


America, with its unique government and struggles to live its principles of liberty, continues to learn and evolve. It is not perfect, nor are its citizens; however, all citizens of America are to be included in the "we" - each to share the burdens and to enjoy the goodness. I treasure the freedom to worship as I choose, the freedom of speech to share my thoughts, the freedom to dream and opportunities to achieve dreams, the freedom to respectfully disagree with some and still remain part of this country. Especially on a day that celebrates independence, with both humiltiy and sadness, I do remember that this freedom has not come without its many wounds, some physical, others pyschological, losses that linger, pain that divides. 

I believe in a God who offers a "radical and unprecedented idea" of spiritual freedom. I believe in a God who loves and chooses to love everyone. I believe in a God who desires a relationship with a sinner like me. I believe in a God who can do all things!  -dho  

** Previously posted on this blog July, 2018/dho

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Real Life in Christ

Consider these words from Colossians, Chapter 3 from The Message:


So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.  Pursue the things over which Christ presides.  Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed in the things right in front of you.  Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ . . . See things from His perspective.
            
Your old life is dead . . . your real life . . . is with Christ in God.  He is your life . . . [so] be content with obscurity, like Christ.

And that means killing off everything connected with [the old life] . . . a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. 

You’re done with that old life.  It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes . . . Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe.  Every item in your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with His label on it.  All the old fashions are now obsolete . . . From now on everyone is defined in Christ.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:  compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. . .
 
And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.  It’s your basic, all-purpose garment.  Never be without it. .  . let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other . . . Let the Word of Christ – The Message – have the run of the house.  Give it plenty of room in your lives . . . And sing, sing your hearts out to God!  Let every detail in your life – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of Jesus, thanking God . . . every step of the way.        from Colossians 3 (The Message)

let's pray together...

Adonai ~
You are Lord; You are Father and Son and Holy Spirit, Creator and Redeemer and Counselor.  You are above us and below us, to our left and to our right, before us and behind us. You surround us with abundant blessings, and we are humbled by such generous gifts.  You are in everything and everything comes from You.
 You see our hearts and our motivations, see all that we conceal from the world.  You know our selfish ambitions, our pretentious vanities, our deceitful words.  You hold our deepest fears, our greatest disappointments, our darkest thoughts.  Behind our masks, we struggle with loneliness.  Beside our idols, we long for more. Beneath our veiled hearts, we cry out loud.  And You?  In exchange for what we bring, You offer real forgiveness, real love, real life.  You are Grace and everything happens through You.
You choose us for real life, a life defined in Christ.  You reform our minds, renew our hearts, refresh our spirits.  Taking holy threads of faith and hope and love, You weave a robe of righteousness adorned with purity and holiness.  You wrap us in this exquisite tapestry, every detail shouts of Your majesty.  You are Perfect Love and everything ends up in You.    
We come before this altar with servant hearts.  Solitude surrounds us. Prayers rise to You, our Adonai ~ prayers of hope and possibility, prayers of thanksgiving and songs of praise.  You are in every detail!  Defined in Christ, our souls are made new, for one purpose, for Your Glory!  You are the Central Force that draws our hearts together, for one purpose, for Your Glory!   Let everything ~ everything ~ speak of Your Glory!  In the name of Jesus, the Beloved, Amen. ~dho

Thursday, June 25, 2020

One Lord, One Faith

Paul, while in prison writes to the Christians in Ephesus, lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 NLT


The word community identifies a group that shares common interests or beliefs, and in Ephesians the characteristics of unity identify the behaviors of a Christian community. These examples of daily conduct should be visible inside and outside of the community. While differences exist, division should not be the outcome, rather unity with a bond of peace. The definition of 'church' is the body of believers with Christ being the center. Both the individual and collective church should seek God's will and purpose, just as each member of its body. God has designed humanity to be relational, people in relationship with each other, people in relationship with God. The mutual prayers and support of Christian community enhance discernment.

Paul reminds this community (verse 4-5), "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope...one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father...". From the moment of Pentecost, the church of Jesus Christ becomes one body of believers, united in one faith, redeemed by one Grace, loved by one God. Chosen by God, we are His children, called to be representatives of His House, of His Truth, His Kingdom. From accountability to encouragement, from listening to praying, the body of Christ should champion each other in the understanding of God's purpose. The process of discernment needs community, as well as solitude. Called to live a life worthy of God's calling, community becomes the Christian's support system, friends, family, together serving one Lord, one faith in Jesus Christ. Embrace community! ~ dho

Thursday, June 18, 2020

God’s Promise

Hymn of Promise

words/music: Natalie Sleeth, 1986


In the bulb there is a flower;

in the seed, an apple tree;

in cocoons, a hidden promise: 

butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter

there's a spring that waits to be,

unrevealed until its season, 

something God alone can see.


There's a song in every silence,

seeking word and melody;

there's a dawn in every darkness,

bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future;

what it holds, a mystery,

unrevealed until its season, 

something God alone can see.


In our end is our beginning; 

in our time, infinity;

in our doubt there is believing; 

in our life, eternity.

In our death, a resurrection;

at the last, a victory,

unrevealed until its season, 

something God alone can see.



Several years ago, I heard this hymn and love the words! In its simplicity there is great depth and meaning. The theme is repeated at the end of each verse ~ no matter the time, whether a time of beginning, of waiting, of doubting, God's promise to us remains. Through all the uncertainty that life brings, we can be certain of God's goodness. His tender love for us reaches through the joy, through the difficulty, through the unknown. God has a plan for each of His children and desires a relationship with each of us. Even when we cannot see the reason or the answer or the end result, God can. The Holy Spirit is God’s promise to His children, for “He abides with you and will be in you.” We are not alone!



Pray with me... Holy Father, I fall on my knees in Your presence. Illumine my mind when darkness lingers. Protect my heart when doubt threatens. Rescue my soul when uncertainty challenges. When I am weak, You strengthen me. When I stumble, You catch me. When I am weary, You hold me. In countless ways, You bless me! My prayers of praise, insufficient but whole-souled, applaud Your Glory. Still on my knees, I surrender my own desires and offer this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, for He is my Grace. Amen. -dho

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Long Haul

Colossians 1:1-12 NASB" . . . walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, . . ."



In reading these verses, we learn that Paul and Timothy have been praying these things for the Colossian believers. Paul had not actually visited them but learned about their salvation through fellow believer, Epaphras, who had heard the Gospel from Paul at Ephesus and took this transforming message back to Colosse. Having heard of their faith, Paul writes to encourage them. These are their prayers:
- walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
- please the Lord in all respects
- bear fruit in every good work
- increase knowledge of God
- be strengthened through God's power  
And the "strength to stick it out over the long haul" that comes with serving Christ is well expressed in The Message when it speaks of "Glory-strength", [the] strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that He has for us.

Have you prayed for someone today? Have you prayed for "Glory-strength", for a Christ-strength that endures the unendurable? Remember everyday brings spiritual battles to those who believe in Christ. The spiritual warfare for believers is often hard and unrelenting. Many circumstances surround each of us, threatening to weary us. Pray for "Glory-strength" to strengthen and renew joy ~ PRAY CHRIST'S GLORY-STRENGTH FOR SOMEONE TODAY! ~dho

Thursday, June 04, 2020

True Idenity

Oh LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me... For You forged my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well...     Psalm 139


Identity marks us, affirms us, singles us out, gives specific details about us. We have many pieces of paper that identify us like driver's license, Social Security number, health insurance cards, military identification, work badges, car registrations, credit cards, business cards; we have official certificates that verify birth, marriage, divorce, and death. We use pictures and numbers and computer chips to create our identity, to track our likes, activity, timeliness, finances, and even our animals. Yet, with all that information floating around, we are "prone to wander" and feel lost.

Despite our vanity and ego-centric nature, humanity is both fragile and broken. Etched deep within our DNA the need to believe in a greater power exists, even if we try deny this. Psalm 139 never gets old. Take a few minutes and read the complete text. Woven into being, created in the likeness of God, intimately known by Him barely begin to describe you and me in Christ. 

"Often in quiet meditation and reflection we discover that we are more than our individual selves and come to realize who we really are. We slowly learn to see, within our very own hearts, the reflection of the One who breathed life into us...who loved us before we were born and before we could love ourselves...We are defined by something deeper and wider..."                    Henri Nouwen, Discernment
God breathes life into our souls, reflects the essence of love, offers each of us grace. He surrounds us, protects us, nourishes us. Without God, our identity is just letters and numbers. Nouwen says, "Our true identity is found in God, who created us in the divine image. We are bearers of God's image and spirit." So, whose are you? Do the people you meet every day know your "real identity" or is that a secret? ~dho

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Beyond Understanding

MAY is National Brain Tumor Awareness month! Celebrating my nephew, Thomas! July 2011, he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, sent immediately to Duke Children's hospital, underwent surgery and weeks of radiation treatments. Eight years later, Thomas remains cancer free! He is an Eagle Scout, 2020 High School Honor graduate, and will attend college this fall. To God be the glory! Go GRAY in MAY!       

To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, or object of our faith – 
the Lord Jesus Christ.
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1Corinthians 1:9 NKJV

God is sovereign, all-powerful! This attribute of God’s character escapes our full understanding but becomes the truth a faithful follower accepts. Our loyalty to Christ reveals itself by our faith in God. When things fall apart, when circumstances become difficult, when we can no longer see God’s purpose – we have a tendency to doubt, blame, and criticize. This eroding of personal faith affects our spiritual health and witness. Our faith must stay grounded in the faithfulness of God, not in our ability to understand the situation.

In our faithfulness to God, perseverance must continue, as well as loyal devotion with Christ as the “object of our faith”. Especially when we do not comprehend, trusting in a faithful God brings the soul true hope and provides rest in fellowship with Christ. On this journey there are many unexpected roads that lead to despair, wind through darkness, or pass over mountains, and God always goes before us. Our continued faithfulness in God “in every circumstance” finds its greatest purpose in allowing God to work through us.

El Shaddai, Lord God Almighty – renew Your gift of my faith. Reach through me to others that need to know of Your power. Let my story be: Great is Your faithfulness to me, in every situation. –dho

Focus Point: Our faith must stay grounded in the faithfulness of God, not in our ability to understand the situation.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Shout Hosanna!



. . . the large crowd . . . heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, [and with] branches of the palm trees, went out to meet Him and began to shout, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD. John 12:12-13 NASB




Hosanna, an expression of joy and praise for deliverance granted or anticipated, is the crowd's chant as Jesus rides into Jerusalem. Hosanna is the word that means "Praise God and His Messiah, we are saved." The Disciples and other followers still think that the Messiah will be an earthly king; the week's events will soon reveal their confusion. If we had been standing along side of the road, waving our palm branches, shouting Hosanna!, where would we have been standing by the week's end?

Even believers, the very ones of us who profess the truths about Christ, discover places that merge with doubt and confusion. We find our prayers answered in ways that differ from our hopes. We meet circumstances face to face and waiver. We keep seeking more from the world but really are needing more of the Messiah. 

Make sure you don't take things for granted and go slack in the working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in the acts of worship - a different kind of "sacrifice" - that takes place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.Hebrews 13:15-16 The Message
Our sacrifice of praise ~
When we stand along side of the road today, as everyday people pass our way, let's shout Hosanna! and mean it! ~dho

Thursday, May 14, 2020

True Light





When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also His tunic. But the tunic was seamless woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." This was to fulfill the Scripture [Ps.22:18] . . . John 19:23-24 ESV

Rev. David Carroll, the pastor at St. Matthew's UMC in Madison, MS, preached a sermon on "The Tunic and Dice" and used this phrase in describing the soldiers . . . and us when we choose the world's view of indifference instead of turning our eyes to Jesus, the crucified and risen Savior: "The soldiers were . . . trading the True for the trivial." We gamble and barter with other's hearts every day, ignoring need and remaining self-focused. Let's go beyond the trivial and seek the True Light!

Our sacrifice of praise ~
Let your daily witness to the world be one that trades the trivial things of this world for Jesus - the True! ~ dho