Friday, December 19, 2014

What John-Boy Walton Taught Me About Christmas Joy

I love watching reruns of old TV shows, especially during the holidays, because they represent a simpler life of days gone by. “The Waltons” was set in the late 1930s and 1940s, when survival was difficult at best, and life was unencumbered by materialism.

Fast forward to today. It’s rare to find a smiling face among the sea of Christmas shoppers in the mall or at Wal-Mart.

Where did everyone’s Christmas joy go?

I imagine it began disappearing about the same time traditional values in America started disappearing. And, I’ll admit, I don’t feel the same Christmas joy I experienced as a child. I’m sure some of that can be attributed to the fact that in adulthood, life has a totally different perspective anyway. Even so, no one seems to truly enjoy the season anymore. Instead, conversations center around what still needs to be done in the mad rush to the 25th. Everything materialistic, and nothing about Jesus.

Even worse than losing joy is the rise of seasonal depression that ensnares many during the holidays.

So how do we overcome the holiday dread and get our joy back? While a good place to start is refocusing on the reason for Christmas—Jesus’s birthday—some of the answer may lie in what the old traditional shows tried to depict—It’s not about us!

“The Waltons” along with popular shows like “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Little House On The Prairie” had something in common. Though fictitious, the message behind their Christmas shows is as real today as it was almost a half century ago when they were filmed.

Joy means spending time with family and friends, not in the store. The Waltons were based on the real family of author Earl Hamner, portrayed as John-Boy Walton in the series. Growing up in the depression and World War II, the Walton children depended on each other and their finite resources to enjoy any holiday. From making their own gifts to stretching their meager resources for meals, the Waltons’ joy was contagious. Christmas wasn’t about self. Often included in their festivities were neighbors and friends who didn’t have family. Their long wooden table overflowed with people at meal time then spilled into the living room to gather around the piano for Christmas carols.

Joy involves giving to the less fortunate, not to those who already have an abundance of blessings. Giving doesn’t always include material items, nor should it just be seasonal. Although it’s chic to serve at homeless shelters during the holidays, serving people we cross paths with every day is equally important. After all, Jesus didn’t intend for us to just “show up” at Christmas. Give a few dollars to the person on the street corner holding a sign, donate to a food pantry, offer encouragement to a young mother struggling with her children or a simple smile to someone at the supermarket. I've had some interesting conversations with elderly people in the grocery store. Many are alone and appreciate a few minutes of your time. J

There’s nothing wrong with exchanging gifts with friends and family, and many Jewish customs and festivities Jesus would’ve participated in certainly included gifts. But does anything bring greater joy than giving to someone who can’t possibly return the favor?

Joy means putting aside differences at a time when the world desperately needs to see Jesus. In the memorable Andy Griffith show where local businessman Ben Weaver tries to hijack Christmas until he realizes he’s actually missing out, Sheriff Andy Taylor extends grace to this old man when he could have easily thrown the book at him. While we’re desperately trying to bring the unsaved into the arms of Jesus, the best way to do this is to extend Jesus’s grace to someone undeserving.  Nothing reflects Christmas like grace. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The joy you experience in extending love to someone, instead of condemnation, will radiate through your life all year long. And, in turn, you bring them joy.

If your spirit still needs a boost, why not find an old Christmas rerun of “The Waltons” or another of your favorite old TV shows? Maybe John-Boy and his family will help you get your Christmas joy back.

If you’d like prayer, please leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you. J Also, I don’t discount the fact that some people suffer with serious depression due to real crises during the holidays, perhaps even the loss of loved ones. Please know you have a special place in my prayers and heart. There is a tab at the top of the page with mental health resources, as well. Please don’t hesitate to utilize these.

God bless,
Laura

© Laura Hodges Poole

Thanks to everyone who bought "A Christmas Chance" and posted reviews on Amazon, helped promote it, or sent me encouraging emails about how the story touched you. On Sunday, 12/21/14, the price will be permanently reduced to 99 cents, so if you haven’t bought a copy, there’s no better time.

My next book, “While I’m Waiting,” will be available on Amazon in January. Based on some of my most popular blog posts, the devotional is about walking through trials while waiting on God to answer prayer.  It offers encouragement to live with hope instead of despair during the tough times in life. Check back for more information on the release date and a chance to win a copy of the book.

“Old Handmade Nativity Scene” image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/freedigitalphotos.net.
“Woman Near Christmas Tree” image courtesy of marin/freedigitalphotos.net.

Monday, December 1, 2014

"A Christmas Chance" On Sale For 99 Cents!...and...Opportunity To Win Amazon Giftcard

My Christmas novella, "A Christmas Chance," is available on Amazon this week for 99 Cents (Kindle edition)! If you've been waiting to buy it, now's the time. 

Brief description of the book:

Distraught that she and her husband are facing another childless Christmas, bakery owner Maddie Oliver tries to rescue every needy child who crosses her path. As the couple jumps each hurdle to adopt or become foster parents, they’re always disappointed. Then eight-year-old Chance Simmons comes into Oliver’s Bakery with his elderly grandmother, and Maddie is immediately smitten. Chance’s impish personality draws her in. Determined to stop focusing on her own problems, Maddie sets out to make this the best Christmas ever for the little boy and his ailing grandmother. What she doesn’t count on is him capturing her heart in the process. Will God orchestrate an even bigger Christmas gift than Maddie could imagine, or will she lose Chance for good when the Simmons family suffers a setback?

God’s timing is perfect, even if it doesn’t feel like it while waiting on something you desperately want. His grace is sufficient to fill any emptiness. He sees all of our needs and cares when we hurt. God provides what’s best for everyone involved in a situation. Ephesians 3:20 is an underlying theme, that God “is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.” We have to trust Him to get it right.

So many people during the holiday season are hurting and sad. I pray that everyone who reads Maddie's and Chance's story will be touched by this message and feel hope instead of despair.


Would you like to help me get the word out about this sale? Click on the links below for tweeting or copy the Amazon link (here) and create your own tweet. 

Tweetables:

99 cents! #CyberMonday sale. 5-Star review:“This story should be on the Hallmark #Christmas lineup!” http://ctt.ec/x84p2+ #Inspy #holidays (Click to tweet.)

Love a good #Christmas book? Take a moment to check this one out. 5 Stars On sale for 99 CENTS! http://ctt.ec/6Ccze+ #amreading #TeamJesus (Click to Tweet.)

99 CENTS! “A heartwarming story about the power of unconditional love & faithfulness of God.” http://ctt.ec/C5O30+ @Laura_Poole #Christmas  (Click to Tweet.)

Want a heart-warming #Christmas book? "A Christmas Chance" is only 99 CENTS this week. #chrisfic #Kindle @Laura_Poole http://ctt.ec/H0hW4+  (Click to Tweet.)

99 CENTS! “A #Christmas Chance,” a story of hope, love, and family. 5 STARS on Amazon. http://ctt.ec/9bYNP+ @Laura_Poole #adoption #Inspy (Click to Tweet.)

You can also tweet, Facebook, Google Plus, and Pinterest this blog post by clicking on the icons at the bottom of the post. 

Thanks so much for helping me get the word out about "A Christmas Chance." 

Visit my Facebook author page for a chance to win a $15 Amazon Gift Card!! Details for eligibility will be listed there on Monday, December 1. "Like" the page to stay in touch with my latest publishing news and contests. 


God bless,
Laura

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A True Celebration of Thanks—Finding Peace In The Holidays

"Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2

We’ll pause next week to give thanks for the multitude of blessings God has bestowed on us throughout the year. No matter what our trials, we can always find the blessings. We’re thankful for family, jobs, health, and friends. Even simple things like clean water and food to eat everyday, which many in our world don’t have, are reasons enough to give thanks. And yes, many of us consume too much food on this day of celebration.
 
The sad thing is even this one beautiful day that used to be devoted to giving thanks is now being squeezed out by commercialism and greed. Even before the sun sets, people climb into their cars and rush to the early Black Friday sales, which now commence on Thanksgiving.

Hurriedness and greed. Is that what God envisioned when He sent His Son to earth? That civilization would reach the point where the glitter and gift wrap would overshadow His gift to us? Certainly He knew, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t grieved Him.

The Bible says Jesus wept. Since we are made in God’s image, I often wonder if He weeps. Something to ponder. Certainly, Black Friday would be a day that could bring tears to His eyes.

In this hurriedness, Christians can model another view to the world instead of racing to be the first one to put up our Christmas tree. Or the first one in the store on Black Friday or—worse yet—Thursday night before Thanksgiving is even over. Or filling our December calendar with parties and other activities.

Ironically, as we enter into the season of celebrating our Savior’s birth, nowhere in the New Testament do you find Jesus hurrying anyplace. He craved his quiet time.

To truly emulate Christ, the most important thing we can do next Thursday, besides bow our heads and give thanks, is strive to “walk in the way of love” with our fellow man. The neat thing is—it doesn’t require you to go to a department store, run up your credit card debt, or sweat over your holiday to-do list. It starts with our willingness instead to seek quiet time with our Lord.

Close your eyes and meditate for a moment on the phrase “fragrant offering.” A Fragrance that isn’t found in the most beautifully scented potpourri or Christmas candle. The image evokes a peace not present in the hurriedness of shopping and baking, nor in the massive stack of gifts accumulating under the tree.

"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16 

Paul’s admonition is well taken. December has become an entity all unto itself where absolutely nothing gets done to move life forward. Instead, it’s a race to the 25th to get everything “Christmas” accomplished and then, suddenly, life resumes January 1. A whole month every year wasted in commercial greed.

"Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:19b-20 

This year as we sit down to turkey dinners across the nation, I challenge you to celebrate an authentic Thanksgiving, “sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,” and then spend the rest of the day in family time enjoying those God has blessed you with along with peaceful anticipation of our Lord’s birthday. You might find a more satisfying enjoyment of the holidays you’ve never experienced before.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition, dish, and/or Bible verse?

If you have a prayer request, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or email me confidential requests. Next week, I’ll share another Thanksgiving post, but if you’re traveling on Wednesday, know that you’re included in my prayers for travel mercies and safety.

God bless,
Laura


Don’t forget to sign up for my quarterly newsletter, if you want to keep up with my publishing news, read anecdotes, and see pics of of my family’s life, as well as be blessed by devotions and current events that might not be in the mainstream media. I will also give away one FREE copy of my Christmas novella, "A Christmas Chance," in the upcoming December edition. All you have to do to be eligible for the drawing is be a newsletter subscriber.

The winner of last week’s blog giveaway is Christy. Congratulations! I hope you will be blessed by the message of "A Christmas Chance."

©Laura Hodges Poole

“Pumpkin Pie” image courtesy of Apolonia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Africa” image courtesy of africa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Lady Holding Shopping Bag” image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Natural Window” image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

When Life Is Beyond Understanding

“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’” Job 37:5-6 NIV

Job suffered greatly through horrific earthly trials. He questioned God. He endured bogus advice and proclamations from his “friends.” Yet, he didn’t turn away from God, as his wife advised (Job 2:9). Though Job couldn’t imagine the reasons for his trials, he kept crying out to God because he believed he’d get an answer.

Why do we ever doubt that God will answer our prayers? What we’re really saying is we don’t feel He’s capable of coming through. Or perhaps He has a pair of cosmic dice He rolls, and some prayers get answered and some don’t. Since the pattern of answered prayer doesn’t make sense to us, there must be some weird system for saying who lives, who dies, who gets promoted or gets the new house or job promotion over someone else.

Job’s friends, even in their best effort to encourage him, gave him erroneous advice and reasons as to why he was suffering. After all, when someone goes through the level of calamity Job did, they must have done something to deserve it, right?

Or worse yet, God struck them down for their sins.

So, let’s take a look at some of the reasons we might go through dark periods in our life.

God allows trials to grow us.

Take the situation of Jacob. He stole his brother Esau’s birthright and their father’s final blessing. He set out to Harran to go to his Uncle Laban’s family to find a wife. What Jacob didn’t know is his ability to outscheme people would pale in comparison to his future father-in-law’s. Years later, after fleeing with his two wives, Rachel and Leah, Jacob had an encounter with the Lord (Genesis 32:22-32). Ironically, God had allowed several trials in Jacob’s life, including working fourteen years for the woman he loved. All of this prepared Jacob for his ultimate role in the nation of Israel, yet Jacob still didn’t completely yield to God.

God will chase us—and even allow pain to bring us closer to Him.

Ultimately, God had to inflict pain on Jacob to get him to stop running and trying to fulfill his own agenda, which often was devious. In verse 26, Jacob had not only stopped running, he did a complete about face after his encounter with God. He clung to God.

“But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’” Genesis 32:26b

God wants a relationship with His people. That’s ultimately why He created us.

Yet we have free wills. We can choose to reject or accept God. We can choose paths that lead to destruction or create hedges around us that can’t be toppled easily.  We often don’t seek God’s will in our lives when things are going well. Humans tend to only cry out to a “higher power” when they’re in dire straits.

As Christians, we were bought with a price. We are no longer free to do the things we did before, without consequence.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 

The Apostle Paul learned that his perpetual trial of a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) kept him close to God. Paul spoke of “praying continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

God’s ultimate judgment will come in eternity.

This isn’t a reason for a trial, but a rebuttal of those who believe trials are a judgment. Certainly, we can experience self-inflicted trials from lifestyle choices, but God doesn’t have to go around smiting people to meter out punishment.  Nor do we have to try to decipher if He is doing so.  

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the “Why?” question when we suffer trials. God can handle questions, and He answers us. Sometimes the answer points to eternity and is one we wouldn’t be able to apply to our lives now.

But looking at other people’s afflictions and thinking, “Look at how they live,” or “They brought that on themselves,” is just plain wrong.

What we’re really saying when we try to give people a reason for their trials, or worse yet, whisper behind their back or grumble in our souls, is that we’re willing to play God. 

And when we try to fill in for God, we’re taking on an impossible role. He knows what’s best for us. Why wrestle Him and settle for second best by insisting on our way? Every journey goes over rough roads, mountaintops, and through valleys. And through it all, He walks with us, never leaving or forsaking us.

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

Remember that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18) and “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). In your darkest moments, cling to the assurance that we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37).  

What trial have you walked through where you clearly saw God’s hand in the midst of it, even when others offered bad advice like Job’s friends did? Was there a particular Bible passage that helped you during this time?

Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered in a drawing for a FREE copy of my Christmas novella just released. "A Christmas Chance" is available on Amazon for purchase.

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

Shalom,
Laura

Don’t forget to sign up for my quarterly newsletter, if you want to keep up with my publishing news and read anecdotes and see pics of of my family’s life, as well as be blessed by devotions and current events that might not be in the mainstream media. I will also give away one FREE copy of "A Christmas Chance" in the upcoming December edition. All you have to do to be eligible for the newsletter drawing is be a newsletter subscriber.


©Laura Hodges Poole

“Lightning over the Sea” image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Question Mark & Cursors” image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Bald eagle at sunrise” image courtesy of Ron Bird/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

When Your Dream Comes True

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

My love of literature is part of my earliest memories. As a toddler, I loved to be read to. Before I started kindergarten, I insisted I already knew how to read, when in fact, I had memorized stories read to me.

Once I learned how to write, the urge to create stories soon followed. I made little books of cut up paper with cardboard covers filled with crayoned illustrations and penciled words. I still have one of these books, and it looks as funny as it sounds. J

My mom gave me some old school items a few years back, and among these was a scrapbook from fifth grade that contained a quiz. You know the kind—the teacher says a word and you respond with the first word that pops into your mind. Not surprisingly, many of my responses were about books or writing.

By the time I was a young adult, my desire grew to include becoming a published author, but back in the day with no internet, the publishing world was a mystery. In order to get any information, you went to the library and searched out publishers and addresses and then had to figure out how to query or write manuscripts. It was a long, tedious process! I tucked away my dream while I spent the next twenty years raising kids. Occasionally, I’d write an article and submit it somewhere, only to receive a rejection letter.

Almost ten years ago, after my sister’s death, I couldn’t write. I couldn’t form a sentence. Nothing inspired me. So I turned to another passion—wannabe artist. I bought art books and sketched. It was a cathartic outlet for my creativity, and though it didn’t require any real thinking, my frustration level peaked often.

Then in the summer of 2006, I saw a contest in the local newspaper for a murder mystery serial. Six installments had already been written, and each month, writers could submit the next chapter. I hadn’t read any of the other installments, but I wrote a chapter and submitted it. In a few weeks, I received a call that I had won for that month. I ended up winning the next five months and completed the serial. Next I wrote an op-ed piece on poorly planned urban development that elicited much debate within our community. Many nasty and praiseworthy comments were made about me in the public forum, which gave me a little taste of the thick skin needed to be a writer. Later, I met the newspaper’s publisher at a charity function, and he extended an invitation for me to freelance.

But my real passion has always been fiction. I studied the craft, honed my skills, attended writers’ conferences, joined critique groups, and learned to network. I started getting requests for full manuscripts from proposals I’d sent to publishers, and then in 2011, I signed with an agent, though we’ve recently split.

Although I’ve written three full-length manuscripts, two of which are under review at traditional publishers, I decided to self-publish a smaller Christmas manuscript I wrote in the spring.

“A Christmas Chance” is layered with different themes, the main one the emptiness a woman feels while struggling with infertility. The desire to have children is instilled in women by God, and like Hannah (Samuel's mom) in the Bible, many women would do just about anything to become a mother. Their empty hearts become even bigger during Christmas when other families have children to celebrate with. The main character, Maddie Oliver, is no exception. On the other side are the children who lose parents or are in the foster care or adoption system, and often they don’t get a fair shake from the beginning of life. Maddie and Chance’s story is heartwarming and fictitious, yet the message of God’s hope is very real. He is able to do more than we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

So, here I sit, almost five decades since I first fell in love with books. My life took a different path than what I imagined as a youngster. Yet God has been so good to me, strengthening me throughout the process and guiding me to the right time and place to have my first book published (Psalm 136). His timing is always perfect.

The world tends to judge writers by its definition of success. I’m not up there with Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, and my books don’t sit alongside Jan Karon’s or Karen Kingsbury's in the Christian bookstore.

Still, I’m a writer.

Am I a success? Well, I guess that depends on what measurement you’re using. I do know this—my dream has come true.

Thank you for being a part of my journey and my launch of “A Christmas Chance” today. It’s now available on Amazon. Click here to purchase or learn more.

Meanwhile, if you have a prayer request, please leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I’d love to join you in prayer. J

God bless,
Laura


© Laura Hodges Poole

“Woman Face” photo courtesy of graur codrin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Choosing The Extraordinary Path

“There are no extraordinary men... just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.” ~William Halsey, fleet Admiral and South Pacific commander during World War II

When was the last time you walked along the beach, sand squishing beneath your feet, and waves crashing on the shore and over your ankles?

I discovered something last week while walking along the beach looking for shells and again later while I lounged in my beach chair and watched folks pass by. Almost no one could resist picking up a shell that caught their eye. Why do we do this? Is there anything extraordinary about sea shells?

I’ve collected scores of shells over the past forty years, so this trip I decided only to collect extraordinary shells. How did I define extraordinary? They had to have a twist or curl, much like large conch shells. If it didn’t have a twist, there had to be some other extraordinary feature to justify keeping it. 

"fan" and "duck feet" shells
No ordinary “fan” or “duck feet” shells to join the hundreds of the same I already have.

my extraordinary collection
I’ll be honest. Part of my motive was to reduce the number of shells I took home. I had fun watching the waves roll in and recede, then checking to see what was left behind.

As fun as this was, I saw the parallel to how many of us live our lives. It’s not as though we choose the ordinary. Rather, it chooses us, and we ride along with it.

When was the last time you chose the path that led to the extraordinary challenge, even as you lived an ordinary life?

It may sound like a contradiction, but when you look to Biblical examples, like Christ, you find ordinary men whose chose the extraordinary path and seized opportunities God placed before them.

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.” Acts 4:13-14

Jesus’s life had purpose, and he didn’t waste time. On the surface, he did ordinary things every day, but when you dig deeper, he had many divine appointments, such as meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Both could be characterized as extraordinary.

Mother Teresa lived simply, reportedly possessing only two sets of clothing. Her daily life was no doubt filled with necessary, mundane chores, yet her service to poverty-stricken orphans in India reflected extraordinary service to the “least of these” (Matthew 25:31-45). 

As I collected shells, I thought about how often we settle for ordinary because we’re too scared or too set in our ways to strive for the extraordinary. Or perhaps we believe, especially in some Christian circles, we don’t deserve better or only those blessed with extraordinary talents or calling should be in this realm. In doing so, we often get trapped by the ordinary day-to-day time wasters like television, social media, or games. Do you know how often I get “friend requests” to play games on Facebook? It boggles my mind.

I'm not discounting the fact we all need downtime. I loved my time at the beach. It rejuvenated my exhausted mind and body. I’m also not talking about acquiring the “best life now” as promoted by certain prosperity preachers. Trials are a significant part of our earthly lives, as is the routine day-to-day work or chores we must do. I’m referring to listening for God’s plan of extraordinary work, divine appointments, and opportunities to minister and be His vessel while walking the ordinary path.

Let’s not waste time focusing on the mundane when God calls us to extraordinary tasks. When's the last time you listened for His call? Have the courage to ask what He wants for your life, and then be willing to follow through, no matter how challenging the path looks.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 

Sunrise

I’m excited to announce the release of my Christmas novella on November 6. I’ll share the link to A Christmas Chance when it becomes available on Amazon.com. Meanwhile, watch for opportunities to win a free copy! If you’re not linked with me on Twitter, please consider doing so @ Laura_Poole.

If you’d like prayer for a particular need, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you! J

God bless,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Three Reasons My Father is the Wisest Man I Know

My father taught me, “Take my words to heart.  Follow my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don’t forget my words or turn away from them. Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you. Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!” Proverbs 4:4-7a NLT 

I’ve learned in almost 50 years on this earth very few wise men exist. I’m fortunate God gave me one of them—my father. In fact, he's the wisest man I know. 

Papa finds joy in life through his work, nature, and daily interactions with people. It’s not unusual to find him in the local convenience store with his Pepsi and pack of peanuts chatting with the clerks or regular customers coming in and out. He’s enlightened more than a few folks that putting the peanuts in the Pepsi and consuming them together is the way to go. J

Animals rank near the top of his joy list. My father loves animals. One of his favorites: the donkey. Perhaps this is because they’re kindred spirits. J They’re stubborn and strong animals who persevere despite their circumstances. He’s owned them for decades. The mama donkey who’d been with him the longest died over the weekend after becoming toxic while pregnant. While I listened to my dad’s account of her death, his sadness and regret shone through. But his wisdom and acceptance of life’s tough times reflected the character he’s always displayed.

I’m more than blessed to have Christian parents who instilled solid life principles in me. But my conversation with my dad made me stop and consider a few qualities that make him so wise.

My father is wise because he not only showed his children love, he taught us love.

Love is more than affection. In fact, it’s often confused with affection. Love is reflected in your everyday interactions with others. My father owned a cleaning company when we were growing up, which eventually evolved into a very successful landscaping company. All of us kids worked for him during our childhood. Back in the day, with nine people in our family, money was tight. We often collected glass coke bottles to turn in for 5 cents each to pay for a coke or treat at the store when we didn’t have an extra quarter to spare. Yet my dad never turned away a needy person. No matter how little money we had, or how far we needed to stretch it, he always had loose change or a dollar bill in his pocket to give the homeless people who crossed our paths. Working in a university town, this was a common occurrence. My dad had experienced homelessness and hunger in his life. He wouldn’t have been able to come to the dinner table to eat what little we had, if he’d walked past others who didn’t have a table or food to eat.

My father wisely showed his love by not making his kids the center of his universe or putting us first.

No, you didn’t misread that.

To everyone’s detriment, one of the biggest lies of modern culture is children should be made to feel they’re more important than anything else. We’re paying for it with a generation of narcissistic kids who are surprised and angry when a desire goes unfulfilled or they’re not the center of the universe as an adult. Or heaven forbid, when someone else's needs may come before their own.

Good parents make their children feel special, unique, and loved. But to instill the idea that one is special, and in fact, more special than anyone or anything else, isn’t good. My dad never attended any of my piano recitals during the six years I took lessons. As a teen, I resented him for that, but as an adult, I appreciate that his hard work ensured our needs were met and provided extras like piano lessons. This meant, as a self-employed businessman, work came first. In doing so, he showed me love by providing something that brought me joy. I discovered in my mid-20s that my dad loves music as much as I do when he bought a fiddle and started taking lessons. I realized his dreams had always come second to ours.

My father is wise because he not only taught us about life, he taught us about death.

Papa isn’t afraid of death and didn’t want us to be. After all, death is an inevitable part of life. When an animal died on our small farm, we all pitched in and buried it. Yes, tears flowed, but we learned life is temporary on this earth.

I remember the first time my daughter Lindsay attended a funeral with us. I struggled with whether to expose her to such a harsh reality at five years old. My dad settled it when he grabbed her little hand and walked right up to the open casket. He didn’t think anything of it. Doing so was natural.

Back in the day, when a relative died, the open casket stayed in the home and relatives sat with the deceased until the casket was removed for the funeral. Nowadays, parents shield their children (and sometimes themselves) from open casket funerals or viewings—and sometimes any kind of funeral or memorial service. In doing so, the perception of death becomes skewed. Often the first experience with death or a funeral is that of a close loved one or friend after becoming an adult. Then “Why me?” or “Why them?” questions ensue.

Shielding a child or ourselves from death also prevents us from dealing with the fact that we will all die, and then there is eternity to face. What will that look like for each individual? For some folks, it’s easier to live in denial.

And this brings me to the most important lesson Papa ever taught me about death.

For a Christian, death isn’t the final act but a transition into an eternal life better than our earthly life (Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5). Maybe that’s why I don’t fear death (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).

These are only a few of the reasons my father is a wise man. At almost 80 years old, he can be cantankerous and hard-headed at times, but I’ve often thought the only man more perfect than Papa is Christ himself. I thank God every day for the grace and love He showed me by giving me such a wonderful, loving father.


If you would like prayer for a particular need, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you. J

I’m excited to announce the launch of my quarterly newsletter, “So You Want To Be Encouraged!” next week. In the inaugural edition, I’ll share my exciting publishing news and give away one copy of master wreath maker Nancy Alexander’s “Deck The Halls: How to Make A Christmas Wreath” Kindle book, just in time for the holidays. To be eligible for the drawing to win her book, you simply have to be a newsletter subscriber. The subscription box is at the top right-hand side of this blog. Hurry and sign up so you don’t miss the first issue and your chance to win Nancy’s book. I’ll announce the winner in the first newsletter.

God bless,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole