Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day!

We thank Thee, O God, for the return of the wondrous spell of this Christmas season that brings its own sweet joy into our jaded and troubled hearts. Forbid it, Lord, that we should celebrate without understanding what we celebrate, or, like our counterparts so long ago, fail to see the star or to hear the song of glorious promise. As our hearts yield to the spirit of Christmas, may we discover that it is Thy Holy Spirit who comes- not a sentiment, but a power- to remind us of the only way by which there may be peace on the earth and good will among men. May we not spend Christmas, but keep it, that we may be kept in its hope, through Him who emptied Himself in coming to us that we might be filled with peace and joy in returning to God. ~ Peter Marshall ~

Immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us. Ephesians 2:4 (MSG)

Holy Father,
This day we celebrate a new beginning, a time
of new birth for an old way of living. Christ
came to bring a New Way to this world, weary
and lost. Today, we remember and celebrate
the simple and innocent way He came to us.

We long to find the simple way, to find You
in ordinary places, in everyday faces. Help
us to put away our old way of living, complicated
by excess baggage and unnecessary burdens
often carry around with us. Teach us a
New Way of living, restored and replenished,
redeemed and refined.

Show us beauty in the new and simple; show us
joy in the Light and Love! Take us now, this very
day, as we lay down our old way of living and offer
ourselves as living stones for You.

Holy, Holy, Holy LORD, GOD of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of Your Glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD. Hosanna in the highest.

The magnificent abundance You give our souls
exceeds all expectations! With unexplainable
acceptance of Your mysterious ways, we praise
your Holiness! For we shall tell of You and
Your Ways; tell how beauty-full You are! For
Your Glory, we shall tell this God-story, the one
You are writing on our hearts and lives.

I'm singing at the top of my lungs, I'm so full of
answered prayers.*
Your vows are binding
upon me, O God; I will render thank offerings
to You.** A thousand Hallelujahs, my ex voto. Amen!

* Psalm 13:6 The Message
** Psalm 56:12 NASB

The Latin 'ex voto' literally means "from the vow". An 'ex voto' is an offering made in fulfillment of a vow or promise.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Winter's Morning!

Your morning is glorious! The sun shines in a
beautiful, clear Mississippi-blue sky. Frost
covers the ground and each blade of grass
glistens in the sunlight. You feed the birds
along the roadside; they know You will provide.
A lone crow sits and waits. He, too, will not be
disappointed. With the morning's frost, the pansies

bow in reverence to You , but even they will find
the warmth needed to endure the cold.

I see my Provider in this day. There are new
mercies in Your Glory. How my soul glistens
in your Everlasting Light! You make all things
new every day! I wait for You with anticipation!
I will not be disappointed. On my knees, I bow
before a Holy God. Lord, You are the author of all.

Write the God-story You desire in my heart,
and I will pen the words. Hear my prayer. Amen. ~dho

Thursday, November 22, 2007


GOD majestic, praise abounds . . .
His sacred mountain,
breathtaking in its heights - earth's joy. . .
Your name, God, evokes a train
of Hallelujahs wherever
It is spoken, near and far;
Your arms are heaped with goodness-in-action. . .
Then you can tell the next generation
detail by detail the story of God,
Our God forever,
Who guides us till the end of time.
Psalm 48:1, 10, 13b-14 (The Message)

Who is this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty,
He is the King of glory!*

Jehovah ~
You are LORD of all, the King of glory!
We look toward this sacred mountain longing to find Your presence.
We go up to Jerusalem seeking to know Your will.
We shout with holy Hallelujahs rejoicing to speak Your name.
We rest in Your arms learning to see Your goodness-in-action.
We tell about this glory-story striving to recount Your faithfulness.
You are the King of glory! You are El-Shaddai!
You are our God, now and forever, till the end of time.
Hallelujah, Amen! ~ dho

* Psalm 24:10 (NLT)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Awesome Deeds

from Psalm 65:1, 4-8(NASB, The Message)

Silence is praise to You, [Jerusalem-dwelling] God,
And also obedience. You hear the prayer in it all. . .
How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You
to dwell in Your [holy of holies].
We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Your holy temple.
By awesome deeds You answer us in
righteousness, O God of our salvation,
Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer
Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser,
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash . . .
Dawn and dusk take turns calling, "Come and worship."

You have created infinite opportunity for my soul to praise Your holiness and majesty. You teach me perspective and humility with the greatness of simplicity.
You renew my life with steams of righteousness, always leading to rivers of goodness, and oceans of more. You teach me the Source of power.
You let me stand in high places, knowing blessings beyond need. You teach me the wonder of holiness and glory.
You decorate the landscape with beauty that escapes description. You teach me the joy of details.
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
You tame the turmoil inside my soul with ease. You teach me the peace of grace.
I, too, come and worship at dawn and dusk and moments in between. For such Perfect Love brings me to my knees where I offer wordless soul-songs of praise to You. Amen.
~ dho

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Truth's Choice

Truth is the great equalizer, a weapon of revelation. So often we stand at the crossroads and look both ways, the world to our left and righteousness to our right. Here we are confronted by Truth. Truth says we will experience both delight and disappointment in life. In its most honest moments, the world will tell you stories of both. Living a righteous life in Jesus will reveal the same lessons. There is a freedom on both paths; however, the consequences remain vastly different. In the world, everything depends on me, but in Jesus, He provides everything I need. Truth always reveals a choice. The world chants Pick me! Pick me! all the while Jesus whispers I choose you! The world offers no guarantees, no refunds, no exchanges. Jesus offers grace, forgiveness and eternal life. Truth demands a choice. I choose Jesus, the most Divine Gift. ~ dho

Henri Nouwen writes:
The joy that Jesus offers His disciples is His own joy, which flows from His intimate communion with the One who sent Him. It is a joy that does not separate happy days from sad days, successful moments from moments of failure. This joy is a divine gift that does not leave us during times of illness, poverty, oppression or persecution.

John 8:31-31(The New Jerusalem Bible)
Jesus said to those who believed in Him:
If you make My Word your home
you will indeed be My disciples;
you will come to know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Empty Hands

God always pours His grace into empty hands. ~St. Augustine

I sometimes find my hands too full, holding all the moments that charm me, claim me, constrain me, conceal me. Sometimes I hold to them in fear that I will lose them or not find them again. Then, sometimes I hold to them in joy for the same reasons. Either way, I hold to them tightly, hands full! Only when I lay them at the altar, in confession or celebration, can I open my hands to the Holy Father. The vivid imagery that comes to my mind is kneeling with my hands empty, palms up, and knowing His grace falls gently to me. Holy Father, may we know Your Glory in our every moment. ~ dho

Monday, October 01, 2007

O my soul . . .

Psalm 103 ~ The Message

O my soul, bless GOD! From head to toe, I'll bless His holy name!
O my soul, bless GOD, don't forget a single blessing!
He forgives your sins - every one
He heals your diseases - every one
He redeems you from hell - saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy - a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness - beauty eternal.
He renews your youth - you're always young in His presence.
God makes everything come out right. He puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how He went about His work, opened up His plans to all Israel.
GOD is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, He's rich in love.
He doesn't endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is His love to those who [revere] Him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset, He has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children, GOD feels for those the [revere] Him.
He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we're made of [dust].
Men and women don't live very long; like wild flowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here.
GOD's love, though, is ever and always, eternally present to all who [revere] Him,
Making everything right for them and their children as they follow His Covenant ways
and remember to do whatever He said.
GOD has set His throne in heaven; He rules over us all. He's the King!
So bless GOD, you angels, ready and able to fly at His bidding, quick to hear and do what He says.
Bless GOD, all you armies of angels, alert to respond to whatever He wills.
Bless GOD, all creatures, wherever you are - everything and everyone made by GOD.
And you, O my soul, bless GOD!

". . . Possibility discovered the unexpected, assumed the predictable and hoped the impossible. Of all the routines possibility choreographed, His unforced rhythms of grace* became my favorite. This dance revealed the heights, depths, widths and strength of His Amazing Grace. Too high for words, too deep for tears, too wide to grasp, too strong to fail, He held me in all circumstances ~ good and bad, easier and harder, known and unknown. Mercy reached through, beyond my human fraility, and Grace restored my soul." dho excerpt from my devotional journal ~ 10/8/06 * Matthew 11:29 (The Message)

In memorial ~ Mary Sue Howell October 7, 1929 ~ October 1, 2006

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rooted in Christ

Like the mangrove, our roots planted in Christ grow deeply. He is the Provider and Protector of all, our El Shaddai, our God-all sufficient.

The roots of the mangrove create and shelter a complex ecosystem. Over time, mangrove trees nourish and replenish the soil, allowing other plants to form roots. These mangrove roots are the source of food and nutrients for both animals and micro-organisms. And, they "breathe air".

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7 (NAS)

photo/Mangrove in Roatan, Honduras/taken by Donna Oswalt July, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

In the Wilderness

Thomas Merton writes in his book Thoughts in Solitude: The Desert Fathers believed that the wilderness had been created as supremely valuable in the eyes of God precisely because it had no value to men . . . God's plan was that they should love Him in the wilderness and that they could always look back upon that time in the desert as the idyllic time of their life with Him alone.

Holy Father ~
I fall on my knees in Your presence. You illumine my mind when darkness lingers. You protect my heart when doubt threatens. Your 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 Grace. Amen. ~dho

To Him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to His glorious presence, innocent and joyful, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, authority and power, before all ages, now and forever. Amen.

Jude 1:24-25 (The New Jerusalem Bible)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Plant In Response to God

Live creatively, friends. . . Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens . . . Make careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. . . sharing all the good things that you have . . . What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others - ignoring God! - harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. . .
Galatians 6: 1-10 (The Message)

In the New Living Translation, verse 9 reads: So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.

God of all ~
My soul falls to its knees before Holiness. Speechless in the presence of Your Majesty, I weep, for I do not know what to say. You always let me rest at Your feet.
You are the Power and Glory that charms me, yet sometimes I struggle to understand. You are the creative force that beats within my heart, races through my mind, surges inside my soul; yet, sometimes I ache with uncertainty. How do you want me to use these gifts?
I long for the Holy Spirit to reveal my harvest road. I long to plant in response to You, to grow through the Holy Spirit, to harvest a crop of real life. Holy Father, I long to reap a harvest of blessing and tell everyone it comes from You.
In the daily planting, let my heart be open to Your voice. Help me to not grow weary when the harvest seems far away. Teach me to find Your Seeds, to plant them with Eternal Hope, to nourish them with Living Water. Father, when the time is right, show me a harvest blessing. Amen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

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

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mysterious Love, Hope, Grace, and Peace

Holy Father ~
You are the Holy One that knows the depth of each of us. You are greater than all knowledge and all wisdom. You are I AM. What mystery!

Hear my heart, my desire to follow You. Hear the struggle in my words, my choices in the past . You also hear my silent thoughts of doubt and weakness. You hear my unspoken words of uncertainty and grief. What love!

We call You many names ~ Jehovah, Yahweh, El Shaddai ~ Healer, Sustainer, Provider ~ Love Most High, Good Shepherd, Jesus. You call us Beloved. You always know just where we fall, just where we break, just where we wander. What hope!

I come to the garden to pray. My prayers rise to heaven with the Spirit of Holiness. There is such comfort in knowing You already know the reasons, know the depth of need. There are times when I choose the easier path, the one that does not honor You. I neglect to mention Your name and constrain my words that would give You praise. I do not always put You first. I compromise, choose good not best. My intentions are not always worthy. Father, forgive me when I try to be You. Forgive the times when weakness wins and boldness flees. Forgive the times when silence speaks and courage hides. Forgive my doubt and hold my tears. I lay all this on the altar. Consume the wrong and renew my joy. What grace!

What kind of God lets us confess what He already knows? What kind of God listens to our petitions when He knows we will fail again? What kind of God forgives our mistakes just because we ask? What kind of God loves more than enough? What kind of God calls us Beloved? Oh, Mercy comes and whispers with tender words
~ My Beloved, you are Mine. You are forgiven. I will never let you go. Now, let's be about My purpose. There's a harvest waiting. I love you. Baruch Hashem Adonai! What peace! Amen. ~ dho

Friday, April 06, 2007

Glory Rising

. . . all of His followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
“Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory in highest heaven!”
But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!”
[Jesus] replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, He began to cry.
Luke 19:37-41 (NLT)

Crowds filled the roadside, children sang songs, and joyful cheers rang loud. As Jesus passed, the crowds waved palm branches. Many followers shouted God-songs for miracles and wonders they had witnessed, “Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!

Similar words had welcomed Jesus before this day. The angels announced the birth of the Messiah with Glory-songs and peace-filled praises. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to all whom God favors.

Each time the world expected a different kind of savior, one who would be king, one who would deliver them from oppressive rulers. They hoped for political glory. But the Holy One came into the world as the Savior for all people, the King of kings, the Deliverer. He is the Hope that brings Eternal Glory. When Jesus saw the city ahead, He began to cry, mourning for His people, knowing God’s righteous judgment to come.

Anointed One,
You are Messiah and Savior and Son. Welcomed by angels singing
Glory to God in the highest heavens, the people were amazed but did not understand.
You are Prophet and Priest and King. Cheered by crowds shouting
glory in the highest heaven, the people were amazed but did not understand.
You are Christ and Redeemer and Risen Lord. Rejected by the world saying
Crucify! Crucify!, You amaze us with forgiveness and reconciliation.
You are Living Water and Bread of life and Prince of Peace. Cherished by believers telling Your Glory-story, You amaze us with provision and compassion.
You are Eternal Hope and Everlasting Faithfulness and Enduring Love. Defined by Glory rising
Peace be with you, You are Amazing Grace! Amen.

* Luke 2:13-14 (NLT)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Holy Wind

You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God. John 3:8 (The Message)

Holy Wind

A mighty gust, some gentle breezes,
Either blows wherever it pleases.
In silence passing, roaring through,
Hidden still, this Wind chooses you,

From south to north or west to east,
From weak to strong or more to least,
Invisible, with power to
Break and mend, this Wind comes to you.

Quietly with intense yearning,
The Wind flames a fire burning
Within the soul, consuming dross
That calls repentance to the cross.

From south to north or west to east,
From weak to strong or more to least,
This Perfect Love endures each nail
Which reconciles and rends the veil.

Infinitely bolder than deep,
Broader than wide, higher than steep,
Holy Wind, hold each empty place,
Mend my soul with marvelous Grace.

Spirit of God,
Despite my sin - resume the call – define my heart!
Delight my mind – assume my sin – design my life!
Ignite the fire - consume the dross - refine my soul!
Invisible and Indescribable and Invincible! Take me now!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Be Transformed and Renewed

. . . by the mercies of God: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

The Scripture above is more familiar in the translations that use phrases like living sacrifices and be transformed by the renewing of your mind, but The Message gives us examples of how we are to be these phrases. Becoming too much like the world is a constant danger for us. The power of the world entertains our imaginations, teases our thoughts, heightens our emotions. Darkness will always lure us down to its level of immaturity. So, how are we to be transformed? We must keep our focus on God, whose compassions . . . are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.*

Eternal Hope ~
I confess that darkness entices me, and each time, I rediscover its illusions of better and happier and wishful. Deceptively, the world veils the truth like a magician, distracting me with a maze of limited results. This is not hope!

The Word tells me to passionately wait and quietly hope** in God. I am to bring the things of my ordinary life and to offer them to the Holy Father. Lovingly and creatively chosen for me, God’s purposes are always best. I wait for Hope!

Transform me! Make me more like You; change me from the inside out.
Renew me! Find me where I am; pour out Your mercies everyday.
Teach me! Give me life lessons that grow faith; develop perseverance.
Refine me! Take my joys and my burdens; melt me into Your will.
Create me new everyday with Your unlimited possibilities!

You are Living Hope! Amen. dho

* see Lamentations 3:19-23 (NIV)
** see Lamentations 3:24-30 (The Message)

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Holy Potter

The LORD said to Jeremiah: Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will announce My words to you. Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay did not turn out as he had hoped; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make . . . Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand. Jeremiah 18: 2-4, 6 (NAS/NLT)

The Master Designer is creating a beautiful vessel! Somewhere, during some revolution of the wheel, the vessel begins to change, hard to say just how or why or when. Efforts to reshape the broken vessel do not go as hoped. Perhaps, the Potter will have to remake the original vessel into another vessel, one that pleases Him more.

Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand. We are clay in the Potter's hand, each of us being molded into a beautiful vessel ~ designed by Him, complete in Him and useful for Him.

He holds each of our broken vessels and longs to repair them. Knowing we are tenderly held in His Hand gives me great peace. I believe He takes us like clay, mends the broken parts and creates new vessels that will be better ~ stronger and braver, more compassionate, more generous ~ not perfect, but more graced!

Holy Potter ~
Take me in Your hand like clay, make me into a vessel that reflects Your Glory. Mold my words into deeds of kindness and compassion. Shape my heart with Love, my soul with Light. Glaze me with Grace. Put me in Your kiln and let the holy fire refine me, seal me forever. When anyone mentions the wonder of Your craft, I shall always praise the Holy Potter! I shall tell them of the Love and Light and Grace that comes only from Your hand. Amen!

~ dho

God, pick up the pieces.
Put me back together again.
You are my praise!
Jeremiah 17:14 (msg)