Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Despair Behind The Burqa

My heart has been burdened for Muslim women for many years. They live oppressed in Islamic-governed countries, and the burqa they’re forced to wear is merely a symbol of the oppression. The lack of hope in their souls is distressing, yet it’s also an opportunity.

Why an opportunity?

Last week, I participated in the Global Missions Conference hosted by my church. It was interesting to listen to missionaries who work in Islamic countries and see firsthand the evil of that religion—so many lost souls who die with no hope of eternal security.

Opportunity exists for folks to participate in global missions, both as missionaries and as supporters. As such, we can help those in the field share the hope and love of Jesus with Muslims. Of the ninety-nine Islamic names for Allah, among them Judge and The Hidden One, none are love. I don’t know about you, but I find that very sad.

Aisha punished for 
leaving abusive marriage
Famed mathematician and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal once said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Nowhere is that vacuum more apparent than in the eyes behind the burqa.

Isn’t it sad that Muslim women are taught they can only get to heaven through their husband? Doubly sad because, just as Christian women pray and model Christianity for unsaved husbands, Muslim women strive to keep their husbands tuned in to Islam.

Muslim women live under the control of male relatives where everything is chosen for them, even their mates. Sharia law, which governs most Islamic countries, further highlights the oppression. According to the law, women are valued as half a man. It takes half as many witnesses to convict her of a crime and twice as many to declare her innocent.

Malala Yousafzai 
shot by Taliban for promoting 
girls' education rights
One example of inequality is represented in their barbaric execution by stoning. Islamic countries refute they still execute in this manner, despite evidence to the contrary. Prior to stoning, a woman is buried upright to her chest while men are buried to their hips. Why does this matter? According to Sharia law, if you can escape your executioners before you die, your sentence is fulfilled. It doesn’t take rocket science to see who has the best chance for escape.

Many of you might be looking to click to the next blog at this point because, in all honesty, you’re wondering, “What’s the purpose of reading about this when I can’t stop it?”

My answer is—you can do plenty to help. First and foremost—pray for the oppressed and persecuted.

When asked what their greatest need is, missionaries say, “Prayer.” The conditions they live under, spiritually, physically, and emotionally, can often be fatiguing, discouraging, and lonely. Even if you can’t help financially, you can cover them in prayer. Ask the Lord to continue to send missionaries to Muslim nations and pray for their protection.

Prayer suggestions from the International Mission Board:
      ·     Pray for Bibles to be made available to Muslims.
      ·     Ask the Holy Spirit to remove the veil of unbelief from the hearts of Muslim women.
      ·     Pray for Muslim women who confess Jesus as Lord to find comfort, strength, and grace during persecution.
      ·     Pray for Muslim women who’ve been saved to have a true Godly influence on their husbands and teach God’s Word to their children and grandchildren.
      ·     Pray for the government leaders and future government leaders of Islamic nations to encounter the One True God. Many of these leaders are educated in the U.S. This is the best opportunity for them to encounter the Christian witness freely.

Participate in social media activism. Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was freed from an Iranian prison last year after being under a death sentence for sharing Christianity. Worldwide activism, much from social media, put intense pressure on Iran’s government to release him. Never before have we had such an opportunity to combine our voices to rescue the persecuted. Iranian-American Pastor Saeed is also imprisoned in Iran. Christians worldwide are raising their voices to free hiim. Information on those persecuted worldwide is available on Voice of the Martyrs website, along with suggestions on how to help. 

Sakineh Ashtiani
Almost two years ago, I wrote about an Iranian woman, Sakineh Ashtiani, who was under imminent threat of stoning in Iran before her children risked their own safety by alerting the international and social media of her plight. World outrage, our government’s included, prevented her execution. Click here to read my blog post about her. First acquitted of murdering her husband and adultery, her judges felt she was guilty, so she sits in one of Iran’s worst prisons until the government decides what to do about her. Likely, they hope the world will eventually be distracted elsewhere so they can carry out her sentence.

When a reporter asked Iranian President Ahmadinejad about Sakineh at the time, he wondered aloud why people concerned themselves about a lowly peasant woman in another country.

Christians must be concerned about oppressed Muslim women and the missionaries who try to reach them, sometimes suffering persecution themselves. We can’t ever be diverted from the reason—because lost souls trump everything else.

In your own life, do you regularly cross paths with Muslims, whether in the work place, college setting, the grocery store, or your children’s school? Seize the opportunity to share Christ through example. For any unbeliever to thirst for the living water that only comes through salvation in Christ, they first have to see it in believers. You will not convert, nor will you replace despair with hope, by preaching. It starts with simple compassion and grows through relationship. I challenge you to ask God to use your own testimony, love, and compassion for your Muslim neighbors to bring them eternal salvation.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

If you have a prayer need, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. Would you take a moment to pray for those who leave comments and those on the prayer list at the top of the blog? Emily, a teenager with osteosarcoma, is going for her quarterly scans tomorrow. Her family asks for prayer as these follow-up visits are stressful. Please pray for her to continue to be cancer free and side effect free from her treatment, as well. Thanks! J

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Additional resource:
“Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World” book written by Ginny Dent Brant which details her mission work into Yemen.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sacredness in Tears

Dixie and Josh
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” Washington Irving (19th century author)

Have you ever had one of “those” kind of days where life seems to go from bad to worse? Wednesday was one of those days…on top of a week…on top of a month where adversity has parked on our doorstep.

Our beautiful, blue-eyed Australian Shepherd, Dixie, suddenly became ill a week ago. No overt symptoms, just mild diarrhea and some lethargy. She seemed to rebound and then relapsed. Monday we took her to the vet, and all her blood work returned normal except a slight elevation in white count and slightly low red blood cells. They started an antibiotic, but by yesterday she still wasn’t better. Another blood draw revealed a further drop in red blood cells. We were referred to a larger vet clinic with an empiric diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder. With treatment, Dixie would have a 50/50 chance of survival. We had a difficult time wrapping our brains and hearts around this prognosis. Our very small hope disappeared on the ultrasound screen—an enlarged heart with a cancerous tumor in it. Terminal. I’ve never liked that word. L
A few summers ago
If you’re not a pet lover, maybe you won’t be able to relate to our devastation, but for almost eight years, Dixie’s been part of our family. Death is part of life, though it’s never easy, whether it’s a friend, relative, or pet. We will grieve her death and eventually get over it, but that is then and this is now.

It may seem like a trivial prayer request, but would you please keep my family in your prayers, especially Josh, as he grieves the loss of his dog? He has a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, to share some final memories with her. Her passing will leave a huge hole in our lives. Each time we go for bike rides and she’s not there, or go out to play in the yard, she won’t be there to chase tennis balls or squeak toys (her absolute favorite). When we sit on the deck, she won’t be there to nuzzle under our arm to lay her head in our lap. Only memories and empty places where she once was will remain.

God has comforted us during this difficult time, and we have no doubt He’ll see us through what lies ahead. We take comfort in this promise of eternity from God’s Word:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Dixie and me
If you have a prayer request, I’d sure love to hear from you. I hope by sharing my request you’ll see that no matter how small or large you believe others will perceive your problems, if they hurt you, they also grieve God. He cares. Would you take a moment to pray for others who leave comments or are on the prayer list at the top of the blog? Thanks!

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hear My Cry, O God

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. Psalm 61:1-3

Before Josh and I started hiking
A couple of summers ago, Josh and I went to Paris Mountain State Park, about an hour’s drive northeast of our home, to hike. We’d been once before and hiked an intermediate trail. This time, we decided to hike the longest, most difficult trail in the park. Ha! I’m not sure what got into me that day. J It was 3.6 miles and rated 9 out of 10 in difficulty.

Along the trail
Three-plus hours later, tired, achy, and sweaty, we trudged back to the Park Center where we’d begun. We’d climbed as much as hiked, or so it seemed. There were many rocks higher than us. And large, intertwined tree roots. And fairly wide streams we had to cross on “natural” bridges or boulders.  It was a fun day etched in our memories. I often remark to Josh that we need to return to Paris Mountain and see if we could hike it again. I’m sure he could. Me? Not so much so.

Hiking up the trail
One of the things I love most about the Psalms is the descriptive nature of David’s prose. If we knew nothing about David being a shepherd boy or hiding out in caves, we could surmise his outdoor nature from the pictures he painted with his words. You might recognize the above verse from which I’ve had a portion posted on my blog since its inception. I love the concept of being led to “the rock that is higher than I.”

mountain lake
Before Jesus came to earth to die as a sacrifice for our sins, the concept of entering into God’s presence cleansed from sin was very much like trying to climb to a rock higher than could be humanly attained. David cried out to God many, many times as recorded in the Psalms, but he still had to go through Judaic rituals to be cleansed.

mountain stream
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:16-18

Near the mountaintop
Isn’t that wonderful news? Let us not become jaded and take for granted the assurance of forgiveness. Although God offers it freely through His grace, a huge price was paid so we may enter into His presence cleansed from sin. Can you imagine what it was like in King David’s time not to have immediate access to that cleansing? What an amazing sacrifice Christ made for us!

Are you going through a trial right now? One seemingly insurmountable? Cling to that Higher Rock. Cling to His promise of help through temptation. Cling to the righteousness only Christ can offer you through His sacrifice. Cling to His unselfish love poured out to save you. God’s comfort and grace will see you through.

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He's coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day
by John Mark Hall;Michael Jr Bleecker
(Casting Crowns)

Prayer Request:
A Christian lady and her son in the Philippines face a financial crisis jeopardizing his place in college as a nursing student, if they can’t raise school fees before his finals. Please pray that God will provide means for this young man to continue his studies and take his finals.

If you have a prayer need, please leave a comment. You may do so anonymously, if you choose, or you may email me confidential requests. I’d love to join you in prayer.


©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Showing Christ's Love

It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. Deuteronomy 13:4

Am I the only one growing weary of the childish stalemate in DC? It kind of reminds me of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and U.S. Difference being—we’re all supposed to be on the same side.

Last night, I attended the Miracle Hill annual fundraising banquet in Spartanburg, SC. Their ministry serves the homeless and addicted seeking to start over and build new lives.

According to their website:

In 1937, Miracle Hill Ministries began as a small rescue mission in downtown Greenville. Since then, we have grown with the Upstate — expanding to meet the changing and diverse needs of homeless, hungry and destitute people. With your help we have become a significant provider of homeless services in South Carolina. 
With locations in four upstate counties: Greenville, Spartanburg, Pickens and Cherokee, Miracle Hill operates four adult shelters, three youth shelters and ten thrift stores. We are home to two highly successful, Christ-centered addiction recovery programs: Renewal for women, and Overcomers for men. And, we also license foster care families in the upstate. 
The keynote speaker was Ron Hall, co-author of the book "Same Kind of Different As Me." If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the most remarkable, motivational, life-changing books I’ve ever read. Definitely in my top 5. Or possibly top 3. J 

Ron, an upscale art dealer, and his wife Deborah worked in a homeless shelter where they met Denver Moore, an angry ex-con homeless man that everyone gave a wide berth—except Deborah. The three formed a bond that changed their community and eventually, the hearts of thousands nationwide. Here are a few Denver Moore quotes:

“Nobody can help everybody, but everybody can help somebody.”

“When people see homeless folks living under bridges, living in cardboard boxes, they ask, 'Why hasn't God done something about this?' One day, God is going to ask you the same question.”

“Mr. Ron, I never figured out why folks go to church on Sunday to worship one homeless guy and then on Monday ignore the first homeless person they see.”

To date, Ron and Denver’s ministry has raised more than $80 million for the homeless. I’m just scratching the surface of this amazing story of love and redemption, and it would take several blog posts to relay it. So…go buy the book! If you never read another book your entire life, this will be enough. I promise. J
Despite what goes on in Washington or around the world, what matters is that we “hold fast” to God and display His love that resides in us to others. That is the only security you will ever possess or offer to others in this world.

Whether this means volunteering in a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, your church, or helping your neighbor who’s struggling to feed her children because her husband’s been out of work for two years, you can do something to help. Offer to babysit, invite them to dinner, or just listen when she talks.

To paraphrase one of Ron’s comments last night: Anyone can hand someone a dollar. You make a difference when you take the time to show them the love of Christ.

What will that look like in your life today?

If you have a prayer need, please share it in the comments or e-mail me confidential requests. Our military personnel continue to be in harm’s way around the globe, specifically in Afghanistan. Information on one soldier we’ve prayed for over the past year is at the top of the blog, along with our permanent prayer list. Would you take a few moments to add these folks to your prayers today? Thanks!

Praise Report from Courtney after her appointment at Duke yesterday: It's a WONDERFUL day!!!!! All scans were awesome!! The PET scan was even better than the last one I had 6 months ago. I am getting off another chemo! Yay! That brings me down to just one which would be Avastin that I get every 3 weeks in Greenville. In another 6 months, they will do another scan....and if that's a good report, I will be done with ALL chemos!!! I go back in 9 weeks to do my routine MRI. God is so good! I'm blessed beyond blessed. Thank you all for the sweet messages and prayers!

There’s nothing I can add except Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Hope you all have a blessed week.


©Laura Hodges Poole

Book Description from “Same Kind of Different As Me” website:
A dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Special Prayer Request

Courtney is a young mother we've been praying for during the past two years while she's battled a cancerous brain tumor. She's had several clear reports after surgery, gamma knife radiation, and ongoing chemotherapy treatment.

She shares this prayer request:

I'm asking for a special prayer for me, my mom and my sister as we are on our way to Duke tonight. Praying for safe travels and excellent reports tomorrow. My schedule for tomorrow is: MRI 9:00 am, 10:45 lab, 11:30 PET scan and 1:30 for the results. As my sister says, we're planning on coming home with Kool-Aid smiles! Thank you in advance for the prayers.

Dear God, we lift up Courtney and her family tonight and tomorrow as she takes another step in her journey toward wellness. Please put your protection around them as they travel. We praise you for your faithfulness, grace, and mercy in Courtney's care and healing. We thank you for the many good reports she's had and your blessings in the ones to come. May she feel your comfort during these stressful times. In Jesus' name. Amen.

God bless you all for joining me in prayer.
"Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life." Jonathan Edwards

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

God's Grace Is Like...A Dog?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

I pray your week has been a good one so far, full of God’s grace, mercy, and comfort. I’ve asked my friend and fellow Christian blogger, TC Avey, to share a devotion today. I’m dealing with a health issue, among other things, so having Christian friends like TC to help out is a tremendous blessing. I praise God for people like her that He has brought into my life. Her message on grace is a timely one. J 


Discipline is a daily topic in a house with a toddler. On any given day you can hear a conversation similar to this:

“Tell mommy why you got a time out.”

“I hit Liberty” (our dog).

“I told you that if you hit her, you’d get a time out, but you did it anyway. Tell her you’re sorry for hitting her.”

He bends down and curls his little fists into her hair and whispers, “I’m sorry, Liberty.”

Liberty licks his tiny face, sending peels of delight echoing throughout our house.

Before the teaching moment is completely gone, I try one last time to make sure my son understands why he had to sit in the corner. “If you hit her again, you get another time out. Understand?”

He hangs his little head, but an impish grin peeks out as he says, “Okay.”

Before long, we have a similar conversation about pulling the dog’s hair.

Through it all, Liberty remains by his side. She doesn’t require an apology. She doesn’t demand “justice,” “fairness,” or “punishment.” And she doesn’t hold a grudge.

Nope. She shows total and complete GRACE. She loves my son no matter how roughly he treats her. She sticks by his side, even when it’s not pleasant.

Now that is unconditional love.

Her expressions of love, devotion, and grace blow me away. How often do I treat God the way my son treats the dog? While I don’t pull God’s hair or smack him upside the head, I can’t say my treatment is gentle at times. Yet no matter how ugly I act, God is here, ready and willing to forgive and restore the relationship.

All this reminds me of the story of the adulterous woman and Jesus. After all her accusers left, He told her to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11).


Notice Jesus didn’t try to get “one more teaching moment in.” The woman knew what she’d done. She didn’t need a reminder.

She didn’t need someone like ME saying, “Do you know why they were about to stone you to death? Do you realize I could have just let that happen because it was justified? You better straighten up or next time you might get hit a few times before I come to your rescue.”

Nope. She didn’t need any of that. What she needed was grace.

Good thing those people brought her to Jesus and not me. I would have wanted to lecture her before sending her away.

Now, my son is a toddler. I have to teach him right from wrong; it’s part of my job as a parent. It’s not my job however to “teach” others. I’m not called to judge sinners but to love them.

In 2 Timothy 2:1, we are told to be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Strong in grace…

My dog’s teaching me daily about that type of grace.

That’s the type of grace Christ extends. It’s the type of grace He wants us to extend, as well. Everyone sins…but only God is able to rightly judge and instruct.

Let’s let God be God.

Let’s let God be our parent and discipline each individual as He knows best instead of us trying to be the big sister/brother who wants to stick our noses where they don’t belong (Proverbs 3:11-12).

Discipline is good for those who learn from it (Proverbs 15:5), but it’s not up to us to discipline the world. We are called to give unconditional love—to shine HIS light.

If you have difficulty understanding God’s unmerited devotion, just spend some time around a toddler and a dog. It’s more than words can express.

It’s GRACE. 

TC Avey is a Christian writer devoted to God, family, friends & nation. She blogs at "Wisdom of a Fool." An avid reader, mother, wife, and animal lover, she describes her life as “organized chaos.”

If you have a prayer need, please share it in the comments or e-mail me confidential requests. While you’re here, would you take a moment to pray for those on our prayer list at the top of the blog? Thanks!

God bless,