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

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Advent Thoughts 2019 - Peace

“Quietly, they bring God’s questions and proclaim to us the wonders of God, for whom nothing is impossible.”
Alfred Delp, German priest martyred by Hitler

The angels of Christmas bring messages of hope into a world full of contrasts, anguish and anticipation, wickedness and wisdom, disappointment and delight. Christ is born into a world of corrupt political powers, when unjust kings rule with selfish ambition, and religious leaders anticipate a different kind of Messiah. When deity merges with humanity, the wonders of God shout to the centuries before and to come, “Nothing is impossible with God!”

Ecclesiastes 1:9 reads, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Wars and poverty have never quieted the artists or inventors. Rulers or politics have never silenced rebels or crusaders. Fear and frenzy, however, always crowd Christ out of our hearts.

Every year we listen again as choirs of all ages sing the angels’ message of hope. Extravagant Love still reaches down into the world, reaches though hate and hypocrisy, through injustice and indifference, with unmeasured goodness and grace. God’s promises continue to transform our hearts one hallelujah, one whispered prayer at a time. God desires to be in a relationship with people who trust in His never-ending faithfulness.  In Luke 18:27, Jesus says, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Let us continue to marvel at God’s unexplained wonders, and   wonders   of   His   Love!
Love is raining down on the world tonight,
There’s a presence here I can tell –
God is in us.
God is for us.
God is with us.
“God Is With Us” recorded by Casting Crowns

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Advent Thoughts 2019 ~ Hope

“…Pursue a righteous life – a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy… to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous… that is truly life.”
1 Timothy 6:11-19 MSG

The Man Who Invented Christmas, the movie about how Charles Dickens writes A Christmas Carol in six weeks, is both creative and delightful. In 19th century England, only 40% of the people attend church; organized religion is on the decline. Theology and science clash. An effort for Christian revival comes from London pastor, Charles Spurgeon, and an American evangelist, Dwight Moody, who preach revivals in Great Britain. At the same time Darwin’s theory of evolution and Freud’s psychology attack the Christian worldview. Dickens' story, A Christmas Carol, offers an enormous impact, bringing an optimistic and transforming message during this dark time.

God’s 1st century Christmas story brings the same message of transformation - possibility of change, potential to be more, and a plan of redemption. In Dickens' story, the main character gets a glimpse into his past and sees the realities of his present and gloom of his future if he chooses to continue living a life of greed and selfish disregard for others. One certain truth with any life review is this: The past is gone, but the choices we make in our present moments greatly determine our future. At Christmas we celebrate the day when Grace comes into the world, when Perfect Love rescues you and me.

Our world today is sadly very much like England in the 1800’s, with a decline in church attendance, with clashing world views between Christian theology and science. We are more modern, with infinitely improved technologies; yet, the world tells us the same lies –power and greed and social status matter most. Most of our cities struggle with increased homelessness, recurrent violence, and spiritual darkness.

The ending of the movie reminds us that the joy of living is found in “kindness, friendship, and generosity.” In Christ, we have been given an “indescribable gift”! These thoughts reflect Paul’s words about righteous living. Let us live Christmas every day, live righteous lives for Christ, live in wonder, faith, and love, live doing good, helping others, being extravagantly generous! Let us live with great Hope! ~dho

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Why Have a Thankful Heart

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB

This is the time of year “giving thanks” causes our hearts to pause, reflect on blessings. Other translations of this Scripture simplify desired spiritual posture: Rejoice more; pray more. Be more thankful. To be joyful and thankful in all circumstances seems counterintuitive while “never stop praying” essential, especially in difficult times. These verses remind us of characteristics that define those who belong to Jesus.

Psalm 100:4 tells us to come into God’s presence with songs of praises, thanksgiving, and blessing. Verse 5 explains why: For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. The Source of our blessings, our gifts, our peace, our love is the Lord. God’s unchanging goodness and mercy and faithfulness is everlasting. Despite the struggles we find ourselves inside, the questions we cannot answer, the dreams we lose, God remains full of mercy and peace, compassion and love, wisdom and strength, grace and joy! Let’s try harder to be more joy-full, more prayer-full, more thank-full, because God exceeds all our needs. - dho

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Gospel of Luke - Part 6 (final)

This is the last post on our review of the Gospel of Luke. Unique in many ways, Luke gives enormous details to events that help us better understand the experiences of Jesus. While all the Gospels retell parables, Luke offers 24 parables, more than any other Gospel, and 18 of them are unique to Luke’s writing. We understand a parable to be a simple story that illustrates a moral or spiritual lesson. In Luke’s account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, we see a “living parable” which is to act out at lesson as a teaching tool. 

Besides parables, Luke recounts events such as the Last Supper. The Jewish people celebrate Passover every year, to remember God’s redemption in freeing them from Egyptian bondage. Based on Exodus 6:6-7, these are the 4 things they are to remember at their Passover Seder (or meal): I will bring you out; I will deliver you; I will redeem you; I will take you as My people. Passover is also called Feast of the Unleavened Bread. They retell the Exodus story, eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread, and sing songs of praise ending with the Great Hallel (or Hallelujah). The 4th cup of wine is then consumed after the Great Hallel, representing grace as “fruit of the vine”. In the New Testament, the Last Supper is, also, a Passover meal, but Jesus offers only 3 cups of wine, ending with singing but no 4th cup, because through crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus becomes the 4th cup - Grace. Today we still celebrate the Lord’s Supper, taking the bread and the cup to remember Jesus, a Living Sacrifice for all.

It is good to refresh our memories of Paul’s Missionary Journeys and ultimate arrest and return to Rome. During his second journey, Paul meets Luke. From then on, Luke travels with Paul, interviewing many people, some eye-witnesses of Jesus, as he writes the Gospel account. Luke also writes Acts. This is a fascinating approach to study Luke, looking for whom he must have interacted and interviewed. The “Luke-only” inclusions give us insight into people and places in the life of Jesus on earth, to include His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection.

In conclusion, there is much more we could study and explore in the Gospel of Luke. An abundance of details, special circumstances, numerous points of contact, and historical and political influences make Luke’s retelling of Jesus’s story an outstanding historical account. One of my favorite events that only Luke recounts is the “Road to Emmaus” (Luke 24:13-35). These two discouraged followers of Jesus head home, assuming the arrest and crucifixion and burial of Jesus is the end. Unrecognized, Jesus walks with them, teaching them many things about the meaning of the Scriptures. They invite Jesus to stay for a meal and in the breaking of bread “their eyes were opened and they recognized” Jesus. 

What happens next is captured as Luke writes, “They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen...” Every day I hope to find my heart burning in the Presence of God and pray that I am willing to tell others the Lord is risen. To find passion in the Holy Spirit fuels our telling the story of Jesus and defines Believers! On the cross, Jesus becomes “broken bread and poured out wine”, and His resurrection becomes our Grace. If Luke could interview you, what would your story about Jesus be?- dho

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Gospel of Luke - Part 5

One of the most well-known parables of Jesus, The Good Samaritan, is found in Luke 10:25-37. One commentary calls it one of the best “illustrations of human kindness”. Our familiarity with the story rarely overlooks its theme that all people are our neighbors; yet, we may not see story itself as a revelation of human weakness and frailty, of fear and prejudice. Luke’s retelling of this parable of Jesus captures the essence of servanthood, of showing love to others. 

Before we start the story, let’s look at the geography. The rough, steep, and dangerous road between Jerusalem and Jericho, known as The Way of Blood, is historically known to be a place of robbers. Jericho, the City of Palms, is located some 17 miles from Jerusalem with a decline in elevation of about1500 feet. Rebuilt by Herod the Great, Jericho is a wealthy city where many well-to-do Priests and Levites live. They frequently travel from Jericho to Jerusalem to attend to their duties in the Temple. So, it would not be uncommon to find robbers or Priests or Levites or a myriad of travelers along this road.

Our story recounts a man who is robbed, stripped, beaten, and left for dead on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Both a Priest and a Levite going down from Jerusalem pass by him, but neither offer any assistance. A Samaritan, who is on a journey, sees the hurt man, has compassion on him, and comes to his rescue. We know from Luke that this Samaritan cleans and bandages his wounds and takes him to an inn, giving the innkeeper enough money to care for him for “24 nights”, promising to check on him when he returns. This Good Samaritan even tells the innkeeper he will cover any other expenses that may occur. This “mercy” shown to the unknown hurt man is called “hesed” in Hebrew, meaning “beyond what is expected.”

The characters in this story reveal their hearts. The Priest probably uses the law as a reason not to help, for it the man is dead, the Priest would be considered unclean if he touches him and then would be unable to perform his duties in the Temple. Scripture, however, tells us the Priest is heading home, his duties complete. The same may be said for the Levite, who may have completed his duties, or perhaps he just didn’t want to get involved. We are often like both of these characters, using excuses or ignoring the need or just too focused on our own busyness to get involved. Maybe they are afraid that what had happened to the hurt man might happen to them. Fear frequently interferes with doing what Jesus desires from us.

Why does Jesus use a Samaritan as an example of someone willing to see the hurt man, to have compassion and provide for his needs? Hostility between the Samaritans and Jewish people had long been known, and during Jesus’ day, it is especially bitter. Considered a “mixed-race” of people, Samaritans are known for worshipping idols and having different beliefs about God. Yet, this is the unlikely person who stops to help, who takes the risk. Jesus is teaching us still today to see the broken, to look beyond our own differences.

As for the hurt man, we may wonder about him, too. Who is he? Where is he going? Could he be another Priest or Levite heading home? Is he a good man who encounters robbers, or is he just another robber, weaker than his attacker? Jesus does not give us any information about the hurt man probably for the very reason He tells the story. The one who shows mercy toward the hurt man, this person demonstrates loving our neighbors. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” - dho

Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Gospel of Luke - Part 4

The most familiar story in the Bible is found in Luke 2, the birth of Christ. Each year at Christmas, it is read in services and homes throughout the world. Luke records this historical event in Luke 2:1-38, giving us specific details outlining the birth and dedication of Jesus. Because Luke is not an eyewitness of these happenings, he gathers information from others, likely Mary in particular. It is Mary who ponders these things in her heart, who will one day stand at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

At the time of Jesus birth, Caesar Augustus is the Emperor of Rome and political chaos is redefining Rome from a republic to an empire. No longer is the power of Rome decided by the people, this new empire is governed by a “single, supreme authority”. Herod the Great, appointed by Rome, is king of Judea and known for murdering both his brothers-in-law and his wife and mother. Herod's reign is full of slaughter. Christianity’s beginnings will always be woven into the culture and history of Rome during the first century. Luke is the only Gospel writer who relates his narrative to dates of world history.

With such familiarity, it can be difficult to keep a fresh view of the account we call the “Christmas story”. This year, in a few short weeks, the season of Advent will be here. Take the time this year to look at these words again, to imagine the culture and scenes, to visualize the manger and Mary, the angels and the shepherds, and the tiny baby born Luke records. Keep the beginnings of Jesus life on earth full of hope and infinite possibility. After all, we know the ending of this story! - dho

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Gospel of Luke - Part 3

Only Luke writes about the Annunciation of Jesus, when the angel Gabriel visits Mary to tell her God chooses her to be the mother of Jesus. This event occurs some 1,000 years after the time of David and six months after Gabriel visits Zechariah. In Luke 1:26-38 we read Mary's response to Gabriel, perplexed but willing, humble and faithful, saying, "may it be". Mary hurries to see her cousin, Elizabeth, who we know is pregnant with John the Baptist. Upon Mary's greeting, Elizabeth's baby "leaps in the womb" in recognition of Jesus in Mary's womb. (Luke 1:39-45) After Elizabeth speaks a blessing, Mary's song of gratitude is recorded. (Luke 1:46-56). Luke emphasizes relationships with people, miracles and angels, records inspired hymns of praise, and gives a prominent place to women.

The Gospel of Luke is the most universal of the four gospels, confirming that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world who draws people to Himself from every race, culture, and social status.  Essential Bible Companion

In the first two chapters of Luke, we find 4 recorded songs: Mary's song of gratitude, "The Magnificant" [Luke 1:46-56]; Zechariah's song of praise and prophecy, "The Benedictus" [Luke 1:67-79]; the Angels' song announcing the birth of Christ sung the shepherds, "Gloria in Excelsis" [Luke 2:13-14]; Simeon's song of the long awaited Messiah, "Nunc Demittis" [Luke 2:29-32]. Luke includes many details to give us creative insight into the myriad of people involved with the birth of Jesus. Luke frequently includes the marginalized, the outcasts, the overlooked and records their experiences. The Gospel of Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man, as the Messiah who is bringing salvation but who also identifies with all of humanity. Jesus is the Savior who sees the weak, heals the sick, and seeks the rejected. -dho

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Gospel of Luke - Part 2

Luke, a great storyteller, gives us an account that is more comprehensive than any other Gospel writer, taking us on the entire journey from John the Baptist to the gospel message reaching the capital of the Roman Empire (Luke and Acts). Scholars say that Luke gives us the most complete story of salvation in the New Testament; yet, he is not very well known to most. In telling the accounts of Jesus’ life and purpose, Luke wants people to know, “We are just like you, we seek peace and keep the law and have high morals; we are good Romans!” The message is relevant for every century.

Michael Card describes the Gospel of Luke as a “bridge”. First, we see Luke as a Literary bridge, connecting the Gospels and the Letters in the New Testament. Secondly, we can find a connection between the eyewitnesses of Jesus and those who only hear about Jesus afterwards, a generational bridge. Thirdly, Luke describes a bridge of Christian leadership, between Jesus, the one, perfect leader, and many imperfect leaders in the faith. Fourthly, we discover a bridge between the Old Testament and New Testament, a time when faith means waiting and a time when faith means following.

Only Luke includes information about the unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of John the Baptist, the annunciation to Mary, the manger, the angelic visitation to the shepherds, and the Spirit-led responses of Simeon and Anna when Jesus is presented at the Temple. In Luke 1:26-38 we read about Mary’s encounter with the angel, Gabriel. Her response to an incomprehensible circumstance is, “May it be”. She replies whatever God is planning, "May it be!". This is an attitude we, too, can adopt and still always find room to spiritually grow. In situations we do not ask for or do not understand, our hearts can join God in what He is doing, can respond with humility and faithful obedience. -dho

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Gospel of Luke - Part 1

I am currently teaching a class on the Gospel of Luke. So, I thought I would share some of this with you between now and Thanksgiving. - Donna

Luke, a traveling companion of Paul, writes the Gospel of Luke around 60 AD. While not an eyewitness of Jesus, not one of the original twelve disciples, not even Jewish, Luke’s purpose is, “To write an orderly account that you may have certainty...that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4) Luke’s goal was to show that Jesus is not only the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews, but also the Savior of non-Jews. His efforts are to give a verifiable, credible, and accurate account of Jesus.

Luke, the only Gentile writer of the New Testament, is known as a physician, historian, companion, theologian, missionary, and evangelist. His keen observation skills and attention to detail give us deeper insights into circumstances and relationships. Luke stresses Jesus’ relationships with people, emphasizes prayer and miracles and angels; he records inspired hymns of praise and gives a prominent place to women. Frequently, Luke writes about the poor, the sick, the disabled, about those who society diminishes, those seen as less valuable.

The Life Application Study Bible calls the Gospel of Luke, “the most comprehensive Gospel.” John MacArthur writes, “No other writer wrote so comprehensive a history of Jesus and His impact. No other writer goes all the way from the John the Baptist to the gospel having reached the capital of the Roman Empire. He is the most complete story teller of the saga of salvation in the New Testament, and he is mostly unknown to us.” 

As we explore the Gospel of Luke, the longest Gospel and the longest book in the New Testament, let’s look for the details the writer gives, soak in the descriptive language, and consider the historical impact of the times. Hope you enjoy the journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem. - dho

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Eyes Open!

God loves us; not because we are loveable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give.  C.S. Lewis

How like the blind beggar we are, sitting beside the road with life passing by us every day. So often we are 'blind' to the opportunities to serve, the weariness of others, even the prayers offered for us! We miss God's goodness all around us, the gestures of love by strangers and friends; we miss the loneliness of those we know.  

Read John 9:8-12

"How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded.
[The beggar] replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see." John 9:10-11

When God finds us, He offers us love; He delights to give us unconditional love. If we listen to Him and follow His instructions, our eyes are opened to His goodness and grace, to the needs around us, to the Spirit's leading. As we respond in faith, we find our hearts grow more compassionate, more loving, more giving ~ more like Him. 

Immanuel ~ God with us ~ You are with us even when we do not notice. You embrace us even when we feel unworthy. You carry us when we cannot move. You open our eyes to new possibilities. Thank You for more! Amen.  ~dho

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Piece by Piece by Peace

Previously posted on Breathing Room For My Soul in October, 2013 - Donna Oswalt/dho

To choose life is to love the LORD your God, obey Him and stay close to Him. He is your life... Be strong and brave. Don't be afraid... don't be frightened, because the LORD your God will go with you.  He will not leave you or forget you...The LORD himself will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forget you. Don't be afraid and don't worry.  

on our knees ~ 
We speak the Hebrew word Yahweh because it is Your covenant name, and we study Your promises to the descendants of Abraham. The ancient words recorded centuries before tell the story of humankind and all its frailties. Words translated from Hebrew tell of Moses and his obedience, tell how You always went before them, preparing the way.  

We call, LORD, because there are promises for us. The ancient words tell a living story of love and sacrifice and redemption; they tell of a new covenant ~ Christ. We choose life! Now, as then, You go before us, preparing the way.

We whisper, Adonai, for You are Lord; You are Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You are both hope and light. Your Spirit dwells within us. Lord, only through You can we be strong and brave. We long to firmly embrace You. The world entices us, even when we try to draw near to You. Sometimes our journey is not clear, the path uneven, our steps uncertain. When we cannot see, help us remember the ancient words, the living words: The LORD himself will go before you. You are the Promise that chooses us; You are the Love that embraces us. Lord, hear our simple prayers.  Amen. ~dho

Thursday, September 26, 2019

What Gives My Life Meaning?

"Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person." Ecclesiastes 12:13 NLT 

The writer of Ecclesiastes is searching for the answer that most all of us desire ~ the meaning of life. For each person, there are particular paths or callings that influence his or her choices of career, family, and community, but I believe this question reaches deeper and, if honesty prevails, becomes a common desire for all people ~ what gives my life meaning? After an exhaustive survey, the researcher in Ecclesiastes reaches a final conclusion, a universal answer to finding meaning in life: Fear God and obey His commands.

In his book, Living the Resurrection, Eugene Peterson gives insight into what demonstrates our truest Christian identity. How does one live the resurrection? He writes, "We embrace and cherish a firsthand, personal life with God and one another." Peterson explains, "we engage in a life that is permeated by the presence and companionship of the resurrected Jesus in the company of friends." The meaning of true life always comes from the Giver of Life. At the core of our being, this personal relationship refines the soul.

What gives my life meaning? It is having a personal, intimate relationship with God and growing that relationship through obedience to His Way. Living the Resurrection gives God glory and allows God's faithful to fully embrace His promise of Everlasting Life. While life will always be full of mystery and unanswered questions, God remains full of majesty and blessings. Remember, worship God, and let your obedience to Him define how living the resurrection is the greatest secret to the meaning of life! ~ dho

Thursday, September 19, 2019

A Red Rose

Previously published in 2013 - dho

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. 

December 1963
Every autumn, every year, my heart remembers a time of personal and spiritual growth. After brain tumor surgery, my grandmother retains her abilities to comprehend situations, but can no longer verbally express herself. Recalling the summer of 1974 finds me thankful for these last months of sharing, both through tears and gestures, but always laughter was louder. Reflections of my paternal grandmother's last stage of living always bring to mind an unusual demonstration of friendship. Her friend remains faceless to me. She's just a name that I heard from time to time over the years. And, just as mysteriously, for nearly 5 months, a red rose arrived each day.

A Remnant of Love

Once long, long ago, who knows just when,
            Greetings were exchanged.
Neighbors for a while, some say, these two
            Strangers became friends.
Conversations of yester-year gone
            And unrecorded,
How I wish I could go back in time
            To find the secret
Of such enduring friendship, a gift
            Of the heart for life . . . 

Sunny skies and death, together, cast down
            Shadows on my soul.
Precious as gold, time seemed all too short;
            She would soon be gone.
Silent tears of helplessness inside;
            Laughter was louder.
Old stories retold became treasures,
            Priceless memories.

Although miles and miles apart, friendship 
            Did not notice, and
Always, a token of remembrance
            Was placed by her side.
Gentle reminder, gesture of love,
            Each day one red rose.
Only once did she speak to me of 
            Death, my constant thought.
Relentless, calloused foe of mortal
            Life claimed her spirit . . .

Her body lay empty beneath a 
            Blanket of roses.
I stood beside her grave in sorrow
            For my loss; I wept.
I remember taking one red rose,
            A final farewell.
For me it was a symbol of her
            Friend’s tender heart,
Of such enduring friendship, a gift,
            A remnant of love.

Although more than a decade has passed,
             I still think of her.
Those priceless memories come to mind
            As if time stood still.
Each year when autumn breezes whisper,
            Tears seek revival.
Beneath the sadness I remember
            Laughter was louder.

And my heart is blessed as I recall
            Her final months, when
Always, a token of remembrance
            Was placed by her side.
Gentle reminder, gesture of love, 
            Each day one red rose.
How I wish I could go back in time
            To find the secret
Of their enduring friendship, a gift 
Of the heart for life.
(written 1987, Donna Oswalt)

I wrote this poem more than a decade after her death, words eluding my emotions until then. And still, when I think of such friendship, the best definition I can think of is "each day one red rose." What an amazing heart-gift! What a demonstration of love and loyalty! The Life Application Study Bible says, "The greatest evidence of genuine friendship is loyalty." More than four decades later, I have learned this kind of friendship is extremely rare.

God never asks us to do something without having demonstrated it Himself. Jesus tells us to love one another and demonstrates this rare kind of love with His life, death and resurrection. By definition, loyalty manifests itself by devotion, honesty, sincerity and support. God models His loyalty to us though His constancy, incorruptibility, steadfastness, and truth. Genuine relationships understand the value of sharing life events; to remember the beginnings, to treasure the laughter, to honor the celebrations, to bear the disappointments, to endure the ordinary, and to love through the endings. God promises to love forever! 

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT) God's love is much more than a token of remembrance or a gesture of love. Christ's unmatched sacrifice becomes God's matchless grace. This holy gift of enduring friendship redefines loyalty's unfailing love as Perfect Love. I have learned this friendship is the rarest of all! ~ dho