Thursday, July 30, 2020

Still In Your Presence

I'm still in Your presence, but You've taken my hand. You wisely lead me, and then You bless me. Psalm 73:23-24 MSG


Holy Father,
Everlasting Light forgive my redundant thoughts. Unfailing Love rescue my reluctant heart. Extravagant Grace fill my repentant soul. Goodness surrounds my every moment, exceeding my vocabulary. You continue to weave an extraordinary tapestry with sacred threads, torn remnants and unspun fibers. All are being woven together by Your Light and Love and Grace. What a masterpiece You are creating - thread by thread, moment by moment, possibility by possibility. Gratitude shouts Hallelujah! A thousand Hallelujahs are not enough. On my knees, LORD, find me on my knees, for You are Great and worthy to be praised! Your presence delights my soul, encourages my spirit, mends my wounds, shows me truth, offers me peace. Lord, be my strength, my shield, my joy! I long to abide in Your presence. Amen.
 ~dho



Thursday, July 23, 2020

Find His Presence

Hear the loon's mournful call in the distance,
Feel the hawk's graceful, slow dance with the wind,
Remember the night sky's luminaries
As they fade when another morning speaks,
And find His presence.


Hear thunder's rumbling call, "Storm Approaching!"
Feel wind's royal power command respect!
Recall the warning; listen to the wind
As darkness struggles to control and shout,

And find His presence.

Hear whispers in the night as angels sing,
Feel holy kisses as His angels pass,
Remember sweet songs of comfort and peace
As mercy makes a home within the soul,
And find His presence.

Hear gentle words offered without reason,
Feel the rhythm of glory-words that praise,
Recall holy words written on the heart
As the Living Word restores hope's voice,
And find His presence.


Hear the empty silence of loneliness,
Feel the wordless sighs of unspoken prayer,
Remember the promise of Perfect Love
As holiness seeks ordinary time,
And find His presence.

Hear the Holy Spirit summon, "Be still!"
Feel the solitude embrace calm's repose,
Recall the mystery and the majesty
As Grace falls softly and shelters the soul,
And find His presence.
- Donna Oswalt/2006

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Called into Community










"Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope. In community we say: “Life is full of gains and losses, joys and sorrows, ups and downs – but we do not have to live it alone. We want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care.” Henri J. M. Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup? (Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria, 1996), 57.

We are called into community through Christ. He asks us to reach beyond our boundaries of our commonality and touch others in His name. While our differences sometimes distinguish us from one another, we are one in Him. Oswald Chambers writes about becoming broken bread and poured out wine. Only through Grace can acts of goodness become broken bread and poured out wine. 


Paul writes: And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it.* Circumstance does not create community, rather it reveals its strength, its motivations, its endurance, its depth, its hope. Christ calls believers into community ~ and our response reveals our true faith. I wonder, do people recognize Christ in my acts of goodness? ~dho

*Philemon1:6 MSG

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, seven year old Thomas drew his plans for his idea. Together, Thomas and his dad built his design 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, along with bringing awareness to Childhood Cancer and celebrating 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