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

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Taking Notes

God wants the combination of His steady, constant calling and warm personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever He will do next. Romans 15:4 The Message







For the last fourteen years, I have consistently kept a devotional-prayer journal. It is small enough to easily take with me if necessary and fits inside a Bible. I do not necessarily write in it every day, but most days I do. Scripture, random ideas, new words, and meanings of words often find their way to the pages. Excerpts from articles, books or commentaries that effect me are also written or attached within the pages. Along the outside margin I write praises and prayers; this process reminds me and gives me a place to make notes of specific needs and outcomes. 

There is one unique entry I always include: on the first page of each notebook ~ I make note of a Scripture that helps define where I am spiritually when I start the book ~ my journey note. I often discover this to be way the Spirit leads me during this phase of my journey with Him. Occasionally, I add a quote or commentary that speaks to His Word. When the book is complete, when no more empty pages remain, I mark the front of the journal with the beginning and ending dates and begin another. Looking back I can always find a richness of God's teaching, wisdom, and leading and a deeper understanding of my struggles, successes, and relationship with God. Sometimes, the very circumstances that brought me the most discomfort reveal my most intimate times of spiritual growth with God. 

My current journal note is the above Scripture from Romans and reflects God’s desire for each of His children. In our daily journey with the Father, we should be seeking His will and purpose in life, listening for His voice to lead, and knowing His compassion as peace. We must trust God with thankful hearts ~ thankful God loves unconditionally, and trusting Him to work all things into His perfect plan. This is our HOPE! Because try as I might, I will never understand the mystery at work in all that God does. ~ dho

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Pain, A Gift

Last post in the 2019 Summer SeriesWhisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson takes us on a spiritual journey, a journey of how to listen for God and what God can reveal to us. I read this book about a year ago and am re-reading it this summer. As I share some excerpts from his writing, I hope you will be encouraged to read along. - Donna

Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my groaning. Psalm 5:1

This is the last post in our Summer Series on Whisper by Mark Batterson. We conclude with the 7th language of God’s love: pain. Batterson explains, “The Bible is a book about real people with real problems who experienced real pain.” (Whisper/p 171) 

Pain can be a professor of theology.
Pain can be a marriage counselor.
Pain can be a life coach. Batterson/Whisper/p 173

Pain is real, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Pain can be a gift, exposing problems and giving perspective. Pain brings us to a place that builds endurance and perseverance. Batterson remains us to “pitch your tent in the land of hope.” (Whisper/p 180)

In conclusion, as Autumn calls us, we think back over our series this summer. Batterson says, “Whether you recognize it or not, God was the first voice in your life.” (Whisper/p 189) To hear God’s voice, whether in our busy or banal days, whether in our noisy or neutral times, we must listen for God’s whisper. Simply put, “Is [God] the loudest voice in your life?” (Whisper/p 189) - dho