Thursday, February 27, 2014

Integrity, Honesty, and Sincerity ~ Psalm 15

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 imposter 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: control, busyness, apathy, carelessness, greed, prejudice, rationalization, self-consciousness, comfort? Can we find justice without truth? Can we know completeness without mercy? The simplicity of Psalm 15 lays out the characteristics for a Believer who desires to abide in God's presence. So,take off the masks. Live with honesty. 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." In these last words, God reminds us our completeness in Him; He is our sure foundation. While we are certain to falter, likely to fall, sometimes shake, and frequently stagger, God embraces our frailty 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. If we walk among the bruised and broken, sit beside the outcasts and overlooked, encourage the frail and fallen, and do this in the name of Jesus, we will never be shaken. ~dho

Consider This:
- Identify the masks you wear that keep you from finding completeness in Christ.
- Will you take off the masks and enter God's holy space?

When our inner integrity merges with our outward sincerity, the heart reveals its true intimacy with Jesus. Donna Oswalt

God calls us, first, into His holiness to restore our inward life, then reveals Himself to others through our outward tasks. Donna Oswalt

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Who's Invited? ~ Psalm 15

GOD, who gets invited to dinner at Your place?
How do we get on Your guest list? Psalm 15:1-2 The Message

In considering the qualities that God desires of His children, the heart could feel overwhelmed. After all, by the very nature of our humanity, we struggle with sin, daily recognizing our inability to be love, to show kindness, to offer forgiveness. Yet, God's unconditional love for us reaches down into our brokenness. Without such extravagant love, we remain in constant need of rescuing, both restless and reckless. The truth is that no one can enter His holy space without an invitation, but the greatest truth is that God is inviting all of us to be His guest! Jesus personally seals each invitation. Will you leave behind the fractured places and worn-out spaces of life?Will you allow God's grace to cover you, to renew your soul? Will your RSVP to God's heavenly dinner feast be YES? "Be my Savior, be my lifeline, be my everything..." dho

Consider This:
- LISTEN to this song (also can be heard by clicking the song title "I Can Just Be Me")
- In what ways does this song describe your life? Give you hope? Bring you peace?

After all, by the very nature of our humanity, we struggle with sin, daily recognizing our inability to be love, to show kindness, to offer forgiveness. Donna Oswalt

The truth is that no one can enter His holy space without an invitation, but the greatest truth is that God is inviting all of us to be His guest! Donna Oswalt

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snowbound With Hope

Like much of the south and south eastern part of the United States, I am snowbound, only not at home without power and thankfully, not snowbound on the side of a road in a cold car. Currently, I am safely snowbound in a hotel across from Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC. Leaving snow falling in Fayetteville, NC on Tuesday morning and arriving just ahead of some winter weather for this area, my sister, nephew and I checked into the hotel for another round of the seemingly endless post-cancer follow-up examinations, tests and appointments. Don't misunderstand; we remain abundantly thankful for the opportunity for these visits. Trying to keep perspective can sometimes be difficult, but like every other visit to Duke Children's Hospital, God will remind us of magnificent healing and Hope!

Thomas turned 12 last week and wears the 6 inch posterior cranial scar beneath this winter's hair. The words "a malignant brain tumor" still seize the heart, despite the surgery, physical therapy, and 30 radiation treatments. A little over two years ago, the post-radiation MRI scan reads "all clear"! Life is supposed to just go on after that; it does, but in a radically changed way. Everything feels and looks different. This new found perspective comes with a steep price but the life experiences are priceless. 

Along with a fasting blood draw (for a future appointment), there is the MRI with contrast, then the appointment with the radiation oncologist who will reveal the results. Needles are never fun, no matter how kind and professional the medical staff. Lying perfectly still with your head in a cage for an hour never gets easier. Then there is the waiting to hear the results. Every repeat test opens the door for old memories and new possibilities. The routine of these every 3 month or 6 month exams can almost become rote, but there are triggers ~ sights, sounds, smells. These unpredictable memories come suddenly and capture the heart, like being snowbound in a winter's storm.

This visit added another dimension ~ the 20th Annual Duke Children's Hospital Radio-thon by MIX 101.5 WRAL in Raleigh. Set up right in the middle of the lobby of the DCH, tables with phones manned my volunteers, the radio personalities interview children and parents of Duke patients. Some travel for miles as they are invited to this event. Some children are patients now, some have been patients for years. Story after story of hope is shared live on the radio. People all across this region listen to these stories and donate to the cause. This two-day annual event raised $1,070,000 this year for Duke Children's Hospital. Last year Thomas and Linda were interviewed, and again this year, Thomas, an official Ambassador for Duke, shared his story and wrote 'thank you' notes to sponsors.

The atmosphere brings laughter and excitement but the children bring the love. All ages with all kinds of medical problems gather. Their commonality is Duke's medical care and their scars. Some scars are carefully hidden while other are openly worn without shame, without option. Smiles come easily and hugs always invited. Parents recount stories and nod with understanding while deep emotions reveal their private, invisible scars. Patients that have endured and nearing high school graduation sit beside patients thriving in elementary school but struggling with on going medical problems. We sit across from Micah, barely starting elementary school, sporting a creative spirit and a tracheostomy while undergoing palliative chemotherapy for a brain stem tumor that has already spread to his spine. For now, he looks forward to Duke's Dance Marathon fundraiser March 22, but there will be no cure for Micah this side of heaven. I watch his mother bravely wearing hope, thankful for the time Duke is offering her. Snowbound with hope!

For us, the MRI continues to report "all clear" while Thomas continues to grow, physically and spiritually. God's presence comforts and encourages us as we walk this journey together. In December, Thomas, ever the fundraiser, promoted a Small Toy Drive at his school and brought 5 large containers of toys for children staying in the hospital and those receiving chemotherapy treatments. Thomas' Radio-thon website page for Duke has raised $1650.00 to date. Always quick with a smile, he explains that God has healed him with the help of Duke and now it is time to give back ~ generously and with thanksgiving. Colossians 3:17 reminds us: Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of The Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Lord, I pray our life experiences will keep each of us 'snowbound with hope' in Jesus! To God be the Glory! ~dho

from the journal I recorded Thomas' journey:
There are some who see this difficult journey as great tragedy. Surely, it is not something we would have chosen; yet, the goodness of God has been revealed in ways and through people that bless my soul beyond words. The kindnesses offered and the gestures of love come along side the weariness that this illness brings. Through these sometimes small and often huge offerings, the spirit is renewed. Invisible, intangible HOPE comes to rest within the soul; the Presence of God is near. To God be the Glory! !dho

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Inner Character ~ Psalm 15

He who walks uprightly,
and works righteousness,
and speaks truth in his heart...Psalm 15:2 NKJV

Continuing our study of ethical integrity outlined in Psalm 15, one can find 10 standards of character that reflect a lifestyle pleasing to God. These standards parallel the Ten Commandments and offer examples of visible, outward behavior that goes beyond what is required. Integrity exceeds head knowledge by calling for a heart response. In the New Testament, James 1:22-25 emphasizes the need to obey, not just listen. Our inner character writes the story our living tells others.

These words in Psalm 15 paint positive pictures that represent sincerity, completeness, and trustworthiness. Actions disclose the inner character of a person, describe their true relationship with God and distinguish authenticity of the heart. Being in fellowship with God positions the Christian to breakdown barriers and construct communities that together share the Gospel of Christ. Ethical integrity is spiritual faithfulness in a faithful God lived out loud!

Blackaby says, "Righteousness is the key to intimacy with God." As we draw near to God in study and prayer, let us take inventory of our outward behavior. What story do my actions tell others about my fellowship with God? How have I given a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves, or am I simply satisfied with my abundance? When did I last wash the feet of another, or is my humility missing? Where could my hands have held another's pain, or am I too busy to stop? The heart's most sincere desire must be to have an intimate relationship with God; only then we can walk and work and speak with pure expressions of grace. -dho

Consider This:
- Read James 1:22-25 (click on verse for link to Bible Gateway)
- What does the inventory of your outward behavior reveal about your inner character? Journal these observations.

Our inner character writes the story our living tells others. Donna Oswalt

Ethical integrity is spiritual faithfulness in a faithful God lived out loud! Donna Oswalt

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Thanks to "The High Calling" for mentioning my blog post on Twitter!

@thehighcalling: Ethical Integrity, by @soulchat at Breathing Room for My Soul #THCnetwork