Friday, September 30, 2022

September Memories Part 4

Do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgements, and His statues which I command you today - when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful homes and dwell in them; . . . For it is He who gives you power to get wealth.
Deuteronomy 8:11-12,18 NKJV

We find ourselves surrounded by plenty and more. While we love dwelling in the beautiful places, our hearts do not always acknowledge The Giver. Forgetting The Giver, we soon stray from His guidance, His promises, and His provisions. In time, we lose sight of His Glory and sit around full yet dissatisfied. Don't forget! - dho

Thursday, September 22, 2022

September Memories Part 3

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers [and sisters] to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1

September calls with cooler nights and Friday night high school football games and halftime shows! The sweltering summer days and days of marching and preparation are almost forgotten as the game begins. Excitement from the first notes of the “Fight Song” and cheerleaders rallying the crowd summons everyone coming together, supporting each other, cheering for each other. Memories of September linger with us all as autumn’s night air surrounds us.

All former band members share the same familiar camaraderie that must happen in teamwork. Whether is comes in remembering of all the hard work, the half-time shows that require near perfection, the trips and competitions and performances off the field, or, later, in the scholarships that reward the work as new beginnings in college call. This bond is cemented with stories and more stories about the band bus, the mistakes, the freezing Christmas parades, the dropped music, and so much more. There is unity in this bond, and even long years after, it is good!

Community is about the whole, about being a smaller part of something bigger. Band memories rise when we hear old, familiar music like The Carpenters, Three Dog Night, Chicago, along with Sousa, and more. Reflections of friendships formed decades ago trace the places etched in our hearts. God reminds us about the goodness of dwelling together in unity. September memories recall those sweet, more innocent days of lining up in the end zone a minute before the half ready to perform as a whole, together as a community. Let’s remember the goodness we find in the unity of purpose, of brotherhood and sisterhood (or band-hood). It is good! - dho

Thursday, September 15, 2022

September Memories Part 2

 "My prayers are nothing other than a sense of the presence of God."
Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Reflecting back to 11 years ago, our family waits for a plan from neurosurgery at Duke University Children’s Hospital for my 9 year old nephew who has just been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. In the PICU, severe illnesses surround us, even share our room. The reality that we are not the only ones to suffer becomes the only buffer between urgency and panic. 
All anyone of us can do is pray! The 48 hours before and the 48 hours after become the LONGEST day and launch an unexpected faith journey. 

Many faithful friends and their friends and friends of their friends prayed with us and for us during this journey of hope and healing. Literally, people all over the world prayed. For any who do not know about our journey, this link will take you to Thomas' Caring Bridge site that chronicles this amazing God-story. As always we must say to God be the Glory, for His Faithfulness is the anchor of our souls.

There are times when emotions make finding the words to pray feel impossible. Remember, the language of prayer is not about the right words. To be in the presence of God is prayer. Find His presence and rest there. Scripture assures us that if we do not know what to pray, the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress and prays for us, speaking our deepest, wordless groans. [Romans 8:26-28] Allow the presence of God to settle around you and embrace you. To God be the Glory! Hallelujah! Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are currently living a cancer journey with a child! May you know God’s loving embrace. - dho

Thursday, September 08, 2022

September Memories Part 1!

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

December 1963
Every September, 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 those last special 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 slowly claimed her.

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." Nearly five 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

Previously posted on this blog!

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Last Days of Summer - Ordinary Days of Summer

 Bless the LORD, O my soul! You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty.” Psalm 104:1

Summer is ending! Carefree days wave good-bye as the next season brings new school days and perhaps new friends, resumes the routines of life and work and possibilities. The passing season leaves behind the hottest weather as cooler temperatures begin. While this season of growing will come to a close with the last harvesting of berries and tomatoes, baskets of apples will soon be picked, and their hot ciders will chase away autumn’s chill. Fire pits will light backyards and toasted marshmallows will delight after the children find themselves tired from running through pumpkin patches. A new season begins as the previous season fades.

The last walks on sandy beaches with warm, gentle breezes give way to the emerging beauty of nature’s newest fashion show, leaves of crimson and ocher and gamboge. With these few fleeting days, let recollections of laughter and leisure and love crowd your heart, cherish the smiles, chase the passing moments once more. Like childhood, summer will end, too soon for some. One fall night, we will sit beside a toasty fire and retell our great summer adventures. Under the beauty of a majestic, extraordinary canopy of stars and planets and galaxies, we will look up and know these ordinary days to be priceless! - dho