Thursday, August 4, 2016

Borrowed Hope

Today, I have the honor of welcoming a guest, Dr. Michelle Bengtson, to share a few words about hope. 

“I don’t know if I can do this anymore. What if it never changes? What if things stay this bad forever?” She pulled her sweatshirt sleeve down over her hand and dabbed at the streak marks left on her cheeks from the cascade of tears that had been flowing for several minutes before she added, “What if I don’t have enough faith to get through this?”

I reached over, took her spare hand in mine, and held it quietly for just a moment before responding, “I know. I understand. I’ve been there before. Now that I’m on the other side, you can borrow some of my hope while yours is weak. We’ll get through this together.”

I could offer to share my hope with this dear one because my well was full. I could look back and see the faithfulness of God in my own valley of depression and despair years before. Yet I remember feeling the same way, asking the same questions.

I remember the attacks of the enemy causing me to question and doubt what I knew to be true, and wondering how I would ever make it not just another day, but sometimes another five minutes.

The Lord sent a friend across my path in His perfect way and in His perfect timing. I remember thinking, “I’ve believed all my life, but what if my faith isn’t enough to get me through this this time?”

God used this friend to speak life and truth into the dry and discouraged places of my heart. She reminded me of God’s promises:

  v  Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

  v  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20).

  v  “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).

  v  “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

What I know is that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). In my despair, I had lost my hope, and my emotional health had become sick, but as I began to see God’s plan for me, it was like He breathed fresh air into me. Yet in the valley of depression, we often feel like we are dying a very slow death.

Sometimes in the valley of our despair, we have to borrow on others’ faith and hope while He restores our own. That restoration comes when we identify the lies we have believed about ourselves and our situations and replace them with God’s truth.

In my despair, I began to believe that my situation would never change and that I was destined to remain in the valley forever. Once I identified that lie and replaced it with God’s truth, my hope was renewed. God promises, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Whenever I became frightened or unsure of my future, I recited that verse aloud, reminding myself of His promise, and restoring my hope.

Once my hope was restored, I was then able to comfort others with the comfort He had given me (2 Corinthians 1:4), and let them borrow my hope while theirs was lacking. And in time, they will be able to do the same for others.

Who can you lend hope to today?

Dr. Michelle Bengtson (PhD, Nova Southeastern University) has been a board certified neuropsychologist for over twenty years. She interned at the University of Oklahoma with “The Father of Neuropsychology,” Dr. Oscar “Oz” Parsons, and completed postdoctoral training at both the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and the University of Alabama Health Sciences Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

Author and speaker, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is also a wife, mother and friend. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She lives in Dallas/Fort Worth with her husband, their two sons, and two dogs. Among her favorite things are beaches, boating, and sea salt caramel.

She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com. Her book “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” (Revell publishers, August 16, 2016) is available for purchase now:  http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/

For more hope, stay connected with her at:
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/DrMBengtson (@DrMBengtson)
  
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
  • An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
  • As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
  • Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
As a board-certified neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson has seen the devastation that people experience when depression sweeps into their lives. She knew what research advocated in terms of the most effective treatments and prescribed them to her clients. But when she personally experienced to the ravages of depression, she found that the treatments she had been using with her patients didn’t help her. As a result, her personal experience became the catalyst for a more holistic approach to treating depression in others.

In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.

For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.

“Catching Hope Word” image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Persevere—You’ll like what comes next

Persevering in the midst of a trial is difficult. Giving up is appealing, but realistically, is surrender an option? If not…

How do we persevere?

First, we admit our humanity and our inability to go it alone.

In the Bible, we see Moses, Job, King David, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul, to name a few, caught between the proverbial rock and hard place—with the hard place usually being death.

Job said, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:9-10). We then see his humanity in the next chapter when he sits down and laments his own birth (Job 3). 

Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He prayed twice for God to take the cup of crucifixion from him but ultimately yielded “may your will be done” (Matthew 26:38-42).  

The Apostle Paul “pleaded” three times for his thorn to be removed (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). 

We see each of these men in a state of human despair, yet they didn’t rely on humanity to save them, because, frankly, it wasn’t equal to the task. So what was their secret to persevering?

If you read further into the book of Job, the Gospels, and the letters written by the Apostle Paul, you’ll see that when these men cried out, it was to God.

As Christians, we know our perseverance comes from God. He said His grace is sufficient for all things. He’s not going to allow a trial into our lives that He's unwilling to equip us for. We must "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and delve into the Word and see God's promises and instructions laid out for us through His apostles.

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:17-21 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 

That sounds like a pretty good formula for persevering. If we keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, we won’t grow spiritually faint and lose heart. We’ll also be able to throw off that which tries to hinder us—namely Satan.

But what’s the purpose of a trial? Why doesn’t God just fix things? In other words…

Why do we persevere?

…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4 

…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:3-4 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7 

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:15-16 

In addition to the spiritual growth we experience, our ultimate reward will be in heaven.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promisedHebrews 10:35-36 

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 

Are you walking through a trial and having trouble persevering? Be encouraged by God’s Word that He keeps His promises, He walks with you through difficult times, and your faith will grow. In turn, you'll often find yourself in a position to encourage someone on the path behind you going through a similar trial.

Best of all, you’ll stand before God one day and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21),  

Do you have a Bible verse that has encouraged you during difficult times?

If you need prayer, please leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you.

God bless,
Laura

© Laura Hodges Poole

“Woman Climbing Rock” image courtesy of olovedog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Young Woman Praying” image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Faith and Believe” image courtesy of the pathtraveler @FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wringing Our Hands Isn’t An Option

Feeling despair is easy with current world events. If you live long enough, you realize the world seems to go from one catastrophe to another. And certainly, our nation hasn’t seen this much inner turmoil since the 1960s and 70s.

Where do we find relief?

The key is not to give into despair. Wringing our hands isn't an option for Christians. Our role is to lead when it comes to bringing peace, hope, and optimism to those around us.

How is this possible when it feels like the world is crashing around us?

Because our lives are not rooted in external circumstances.

We are not of this world. We are to be peacemakers—not of worldly peace but inner peace (Matthew 5:9). This begins with resting in God’s assurances.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NLT 

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT 

If our minds and hearts aren’t focused on the promises in God’s word through Bible study and prayer, Satan will work to render us impotent in our Christian walk by sidetracking us with worry and anxiety.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT 

Jesus warned of hard times in Matthew 24. He specifically warned Christians that we would suffer because of him. But we don’t have to get dragged into the propaganda wars that engulf social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Christians can and should mediate to diffuse divisiveness and show compassion. Stand up for the oppressed and weak. Champion what is right. In doing so, never lose sight of bringing the hope found in Christ Jesus through salvation, the peace that envelopes the believer, and our spirit of optimism that radiates outward to others.

Hope that is found in Jesus’ words:

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13 NIV 

Isn’t this a great promise to hold onto in the midst of worldly turmoil? If we stand firm, we will be saved.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15 NIV 

We all have a story to tell!

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
~Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915

Revere Christ. Be prepared with an answer for the reason of your hope. Be encouraged that angels are around us with echoes of mercy and whispers of love. We are born of His spirit and washed in His blood!

Share that encouragement with those around you. Bless others with your story of hope, peace, and optimism rooted in Christ Jesus.

What’s your favorite Bible verse that lifts you up when you’re tempted to despair?

If you need prayer, I’d love to pray for you. Please leave a comment or email me confidential requests.

Lost in His Love,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

“Holding Hand Gesture” image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Ray Blue Sky” image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Bible” image courtesy of pazham at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Silhouette of a Man” image courtesy of markusa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Standing at the Foot of the Mountain

Am I the only one who thinks 2016 is flying by? Seems like we just celebrated New Year’s, and now we’re headed into summer.

At the beginning of each new year, many folks pick a “word” to motivate them or define what they believe the year will be about. Or perhaps it’s a word they believe God gave them as a promise for their future.

This year a phrase came to me that seemed to fit my vision of the future.

Hope Restored. 

As the concept behind those two little words sunk in, I realized it wasn’t just for me. God wanted me to share it with those visiting this blog. After all, you’re here because you want encouragement. Some of you are walking through a valley. And perhaps, some of you have even lost hope or had your faith shaken by a trial—maybe even recently.  

I’ve not blogged much over the last year and a half. To be honest, I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of commitments and stressors in my life and something had to give. After prayer and consideration, the blog was one of those areas.

To be even more transparent with you, my faithful readers, I spent much of this time in a valley. I’ll spare you the details, but family issues dragged me through some tough patches. At times, I felt like I merely treaded water. I'm amazed when I look back that I managed to write anything. By the grace of God, I released two books on Amazon (one of which I'd already written), and then write proposals for two other manuscripts now under consideration at publishers.

If you’ve followed my blog and writing for any length of time, you know my mantra has always been hope, not despair. In fact, that’s the theme of my devotional, While I'm Waiting: Going from despair to hope while praising God and choosing contentment during trials.  And perhaps that philosophy is why the enemy attacked me as he did.

God’s strength is the stalwart I’ve always leaned upon. This past year even more so. In addition, He provided friends who raised my arms on tough days, much like Aaron and Hur did for Moses when he grew weary (Exodus 17:12). And when the temptation to despair crept in, I remembered God’s faithfulness in my life—and in the lives of the ancient saints.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock…I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:5, 13-14 

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed… Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23  

Though I never lost hope in the One True God, my human fortitude waned at times. I’m so thankful for the strength He gave me when mine faltered.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5
What a beautiful assurance of resting in the peace and hope of God through Jesus! God’s hope alone saw me through some days.

Though some of my personal situation has improved, other aspects became even more challenging. Yet, I’m emerging from the valley and standing at the foot of the mountain again. As I stand here and survey the landscape, I see the sun shining through, and I’m reminded that only God can truly restore hope and give us the promise of a future when all else looks hopeless (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Most of the time that means coming to the end of ourselves and totally trusting Him for everything.

Hope has been the basis for my life, and that never changed. Part of my hope now is to return to blogging regularly and the excitement of being able to interact with you, my faithful readers. Not only do I want to give you encouragement, but when you leave here, I want you to feel your hope has been restored. I feel so strongly about this, I’ve added it to my blog title for now.

I’d love to hear how you’d been doing since we interacted last. How has your year been so far?

If you have a prayer request, I’d love to pray for you. Please leave a comment or email me confidential requests.

May God richly bless you,
Laura

© Laura Hodges Poole

“Canyon Of The Colca River In Southern Peru” image courtesy of xura/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
 “Hope Despair Post-it Papers” image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
 “Faith and Believe” image courtesy of thepathtraveler/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Sunset On The Mighty Chimborazo Volcano” image courtesy of xura/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Am I Ignitable?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

I hope you had a blessed Resurrection Sunday! What a beautiful day to celebrate the most amazing sacrifice anyone ever made for us. Our Redeemer lives!

Last week, Christians blogged, Facebooked, and tweeted Scripture, songs, poems, and thoughts on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. On Easter morning, we reverently and enthusiastically worshipped, then hurried to family dinners, afternoon egg hunts, and of course—after-dinner naps.  

Celebrating Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday is easy. As the sun set on Easter, I wondered where our hearts would be Monday morning in the wake of leftover ham, half-eaten candy baskets, and wrinkled church clothes tossed in the laundry.  

Over two thousand years ago, on Easter Monday, Christ returned to work—His father’s work. He forgave Peter and then instructed him to “feed my sheep.” Among Jesus’ other activities was the Great Commission given to the eleven disciples.  

We are His disciples now—with the Bible and Holy Spirit to instruct us.  

He makes His ministers a flame of fire. Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of 'other things.' Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul-short life? Make me thy fuel, Flame of God. ~ Jim Elliot (martyred missionary) 

Celebrating Christ’s resurrection revitalized me, as I’m sure it did many Christians. Beyond that, it’s a reminder of my rebirth each time I enter into God’s presence. Yet, as I grow deeper in my spiritual journey, I’m cognizant of the necessary steps to stay aflame. 

If my flame gets diminished during dark moments, when I feel less enthusiasm or challenged beyond my human abilities, saturation with the Spirit’s oil through Bible study and prayer is the only hope for my flame burning brightly beyond Christian celebrations. 

As you go to the Lord in prayer this week, consider the condition of your flame and how it impacts those around you. Does it bring the hope of Christ's resurrection to the lost? 

Please join me in prayer for Christians suffering persecution around the world. This is especially true for those outside of the U.S., as witnessed by the terrorist attack in Pakistan on Christians over the weekend.

This simple prayer written by Jim Elliot has resonated with me through the years. Perhaps it will with you, too. 

Lord, make me a crisis man. Let me not be a mile-post on a single road, but make me a fork that men must turn one way or another in facing Christ in me. 

If you have a prayer request, leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you.

Shalom,
Laura 

©Laura Hodges Poole

“Candle” image courtesy of 9comeback/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Christianity Cross” image courtesy of graur razvan ionut/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Woman in Red

Today is the eleven-year anniversary of my sister Michelle's suicide. In some ways, it's hard to believe eleven years have passed. Other times, the painful memory is as fresh as if she died yesterday. I've written several times in the past about her battle with mental illness and my relationship with her. Today, I've asked my sister Teresa to share a few thoughts instead. This is her story. 


Woman in Red
The woman stood so close to me, I felt her breath on my face. She spoke softly, making it necessary for me to lean in closer and ask, "Pardon me?" She repeated in a very low voice, "I hope you get everything you want for Christmas." It was a hot July evening as I helped feed the homeless at the Plaza in downtown Gainesville, Florida. I regained my composure and said, "Thank you. God bless you." She smiled and walked away with her plate of food. She was such a tiny little soul, not weighing more than 100 pounds.

In 2005, six months after I buried my husband, my sister Michelle ended her twenty-year battle with mental illness. Too much for me to process at the time, I tucked my feelings about her death away neatly in a corner of my mind and continued trying to rebuild my life. Ten months later, as I walked into Publix supermarket after work, I began crying. Wiping my face, I left the store and sat in my car, trying to understand what had happened. Then, I spotted a bell ringer. It was Christmas time and he was happily ringing his bell and calling out, "Merry Christmas!" Michelle had been a bell ringer outside of that same Publix, before they offered her a job in the store. Memories flooded over me as I sat there in the parking lot and wept. There were a lot of tears that Christmas, as every store I walked in had a bell ringer.

Michelle
Michelle loved her children and her family. She loved the Lord and studied her Bible daily. She had a heart for others and would help anyone, if she were able. Although she didn't understand why she had to suffer with this disease, she had a strong faith. She hoped one day her life would change. And, we all prayed that that would indeed happen. Jesus was her Savior, and I have no doubts that she is now with Him in Heaven.

Even with expressing all of that, I realize through my work with the homeless that I have unresolved issues with her death. The mentally ill are out there, some on medication, some obviously not. It's sad to realize that these folks are plagued with nightmarish thoughts and voices only they can hear. These same people are shunned and sometimes even beaten and robbed by others who are stronger.

Recently, when Pastor Lem began his brief message to the line of hungry faces at the Plaza, a muttering began in the crowd. As he quoted John 3:16, a woman in red began cursing and pacing. Suddenly, she spat at my feet as she rolled off more obscenities. Uncertain of what to do, I stopped recording and began moving toward the serving line to take my place. Pastor finished his message and blessed the food, speaking louder to drown out the filth still being spewed in the air. The Woman in Red came through the line muttering, grabbed her fork, and disappeared. About thirty minutes later, we heard her shouting and screaming and knew she had returned. She continued her tirade for quite some time.

I thought then of my sister and the troubled life she had lived. During the periods of time she thought she didn't need medication, it was a disconcerting time for our family. Do not misunderstand. She did not run around shouting obscenities at a pastor. But, she did have some disturbing behavior. When she was on her medication, she functioned fairly well. This illness causes immeasurable suffering to those who endure it and to those who can do nothing but pray and watch their family member suffer.

I've asked God what He wanted me to see with this parallel of women. He encouraged me to question how strangers may have treated Michelle when she was off her medication. Were they compassionate? Did they shun her? Were they empathetic? Did they laugh at her? Did they take the time to listen to her? Were they kind to her? Did they love her as God instructed us to do in 1 John 4:7-8? "Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."  Verse 12 continues with, "if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us." 

Those are powerful words! "His love is made complete in us." It was never intended to be an emotional love, but something much greater. The love God has for us is undeserved love; we did nothing to earn it! The same love God expects us to show His people: the widows, the orphans, the elderly, the incarcerated, the veterans, the alcoholics, the addicts, the runaways, the prostitutes, and the mentally ill. They are all out there, in need of His complete love.

God also reminded me to be aware of what we all do in His name. Are we going through the motions of our “Christian obligation?” Or, are we sharing His complete love with these people? 

"If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:3

Who was the Woman in Red? She was that tiny soul in July who had quietly wished me Christmas blessings.

Have you ever encountered someone that society considers “less than?” If so, what was your reaction? How did God speak to you through the encounter?

© Photo of "Woman in Red" and post by Teresa Alfieri (originally shared as a Facebook note)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

When God Met Me At Wal-Mart

We’ve all had frustrating days where nothing seems to go right. And then it gets worse.

Last Friday was one of those days. I’ll spare you the details, but it involved two trips to Wal-Mart eight hours apart and more time wasted on the phone in between dealing with them. Finally, around 7:00 that night, I went back to the store to pick up my package. (I’m still waiting to see if the credit on my bank account comes through.)

As I struggled to keep my sanctification while fuming, I crossed the dark parking lot, weary and at the end of my rope. This might be a good place to add I do a lot of praying when I’m in this frame of mind. After all, this wasn’t the worst thing that happened to someone on the earth on Friday, I’m sure. Perspective is everything. J

I crossed the road in front of the store, and I realized the Salvation Army bell ringer wasn’t ringing his bell. Instead, he was playing an acoustic guitar. Strains of “Victory in Jesus” flowed from his fingertips and out of his instrument.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

Peace flowed through me—as did the realization that God had allowed the whole day to unfold as it did. Perhaps even orchestrated it. After all, Christmas is not found in the hustle and bustle but in the quiet moments God brings you to in the midst of your storm.

Our lives are filled with one simple struggle after another until we feel overwhelmed. Then often a big struggle hits. How do we choose to face this adversity? We can either face it with God’s help—allowing Him to walk alongside us—or we can go it alone. If you’re doing that, how’s that working for you? I can honestly say it’s never worked for me.

Instead, by abiding in Christ, I’ve often experienced a great blessing at the end of a trial. Kind of like the exclamation point at the end of a sentence.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2 

As my Christmas gift to you during this stressful time of year, go to Amazon and download my devotional "While I'm Waiting" for FREE today only. I hope you’ll find comfort in my words and stories as I share about waiting on answers to prayer. The devotional will encourage you to go from despair to hope while praising God and choosing contentment during trials. It’s based on my personal experiences.

“Faith begins where man's power ends.” ~ George Mueller

Do you have a favorite go-to Bible verse when you’re struggling with everyday stressors? Or maybe you have a story similar to mine of when God met you some place. I’d love to hear it. And if you need prayer, please share that, as well. If your request is confidential, feel free to email me.

Have a Merry Christmas celebrating the birth of our Savior!

God bless,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole
“Christmas Shopping Cart” image courtesy of Feelart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Advent Wreath” image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

"Silent Stars of Bethlehem" is available on Amazon for 99 Cents!

From the time she was a child, Carly Shepherd has gazed at the silent stars in the night sky of her home in Bethlehem, North Carolina. With her childhood overshadowed by her father’s abandonment and mother’s alcoholism, she wonders how anyone can believe in an equally silent God. After all, she’s not felt his presence any more than her earthly father. Though she remembers Christmas pageants and attending church as a child, she no longer has any use for what she considers fairy tales.

Drew Middleton is seeking shelter from a rain storm when he walks into Carly’s vendor tent at a fall festival, but he’s quickly taken with the talented artist and her creations. Feeling an instant connection, Carly is confused by her feelings, especially when she discovers his spiritual commitment.

Carly’s past and their chance of future together collide when she’s snared into refurbishing sets for a Christmas pageant with Drew’s help. Will their shared experience bring about a spiritual awakening in Carly this Christmas? Or will time run out as the stars continue to shine silently over Bethlehem?