Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Your Appointed Time

Then the Lord answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.”

Great advice, especially for writers. When I first began writing years ago, the process of becoming published was a mystery. I did all the things new writers should. I acquired market books, attended conferences and workshops, and found mentors for my writing. I submitted articles to publications and eventually got published. Meanwhile, I began writing my first book.

Any time a neighbor, friend, or family member read one of my articles, their suggestions were always the same: “You should write a book.” I’d summon up the courage to say, “I am writing a book.” Their response? “When is it going to be published?” If only it were that simple. J

Cindy, Me, and Katy 
I spent the past weekend at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. This is the third year I’ve attended an annual writers’ bootcamp there. There’s nothing better than being on the mountain in such a tranquil environment with deer, wild turkeys, and hibernating black bears (my favorite kind). The Cove is a spiritual oasis that can’t be matched. Friendships formed are forever.

Wild turkeys

Normally I return home exhausted but reenergized. This year I returned home just plain tired (as we say in the South).  Maybe I went with my expectations too high, or maybe I’m beginning to see some things a little more clearly than I did before.

Even so, my state of mind could be described as determined. Determined to see my manuscripts published. Determined to do more to further God’s Kingdom. Determined to walk the path God has planned for me. Though it often feels like His way tarries like a winding mountain path through bushes, trees, and over rocks or streams, eventually you come into a clearing and see a sprawling landscape of rolling pasture where deer frolic and God’s plans are fulfilled.  
Deer playing 
I encourage you to seek God’s hand in all that you do—whether you’re a writer or whatever occupation or spiritual gift you have. “For the vision is yet for an appointed time.” Trust that God will walk alongside you until the appointed time.

What problem are you facing today that feels insurmountable? I’ve love to pray for you. Please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. While you’re here, would you lift up others in prayer who leave comments? A permanent prayer list is also at the top of the blog.

Now it’s your turn. How has God worked in your life to help you overcome trials or reach seemingly unachievable goals?  


Inside the Pilgrims Inn

©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Do You Trust God?

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” Exodus 3:7-8a NIV

When you cry out to God in the midst of suffering, do you ever wish He’d come down and give you a definitive game plan like He gave Moses? It’s easy to say, “If God actually stood in front of me and explained how the solution to my problem would work out, I wouldn’t react like Moses. I would do exactly what I was told.” Hmmmm. Maybe.

Because God doesn’t appear to us out of a burning bush, we sometimes lack faith that He is attentive to see, hear, be concerned, and rescue us. Aside from the fact Christians have life experiences showing He’s done just that, if we believe God is who He claims to be, then—given all the examples of His perfect will and timing in the Bible—why do we refuse to put total trust in His plans—no matter how slow or fast they unfold for us?

An obvious reason is few of us can claim an audience with God like Moses had. Not a physical audience. I mean Moses’ willingness to be completely “there” in God’s presence, contrasted with our busy lifestyles where we sometimes squeeze prayer in between other activities. This doesn’t allow silent meditation for God to speak to us so we can feel firmly rooted in His guidance. 

  • listened
  • asked questions
  • asked for provision

But we also don’t believe we can experience God on the level Moses did. The biggest reason is self-doubt. Like Moses. Instead of trusting God to bring us up out of our problems His way and in His perfect time, we get distracted by our reasons it might not happen.

I began re-reading the Bible at the beginning of the year. Exodus 3-4 really spoke to me about how my attitude and life often mirrors Moses.
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11
What if I can't?

Wow! How many times have I uttered something similar when God opens a door or smoothes a path for me?

What if I can’t do that? What if I don’t succeed? What if I’ve misunderstood His direction?

God’s patience must surely be tried when He sees my self-doubt instead of reliance on Him. But He always gives me the same assurance He gave Moses:

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:12

So, that’s enough, right? End of story. Moses obeyed. We obey. Hmmmm. Not so fast.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. Exodus 3:13-15a

It’s mind boggling after God spoke those powerful words, Moses still had self-doubts!

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Exodus 4:1

Then God showed Moses the miracle of the staff and leprous hand to use as signs.

The next passage is where I share a major similarity with Moses. Regardless of my level of faith in God—my focus on my shortcomings impedes what He seeks to accomplish through and for me.

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Exodus 4:10

I love God’s answer. J

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:11-12

After all this reassurance, Moses still doesn’t get it. So he did what many of us would—he tried to squirm out of God’s assignment. Up to this point, God has been patient. However, Moses doesn’t have the insight he does later when he comes off the mountain and finds the Israelites in all forms of debauchery, and God opens the earth to swallow them. That might have given Moses a different perspective in challenging God’s instructions. Instead, Moses blunders ahead.

 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13

Now God has heard enough. His patience has ended. He doesn’t let Moses off the hook for being the one He called to lead the Israelites, but He offers a solution that best matches Moses’ nature and spiritual maturity at that point in time.

Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.” Exodus 4:14-17

Even in God’s anger toward Moses’ inward focus on his shortcomings, He still provided a path for Moses to serve and obey Him. As Moses’ life unfolded, he gained spiritual maturity and became the leader God envisioned when He first called Moses to the task. To be effective in our Christian walk and serving our risen Savior, we must have faith that He is attentive to see, hear, be concerned, and rescue us in His perfect time and His way. This may not match what we expect, but we can trust Him to get it right.

What are you trusting God for today that you’re having trouble seeing His hand in? I’d love to hear from you. If you would like prayer, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. A prayer list at the top of the blog has info on people we are praying for.

Praise Report:
Courtney, a young mother who’s battled a cancerous brain tumor (Glioblastoma) for the past couple of years, went for her two-month checkup. She’s had several clean MRIs. Here’s her latest update:

"Praise to the good Lord upstairs, my scan came back clear!!!! In another 8 weeks, I will get another MRI and a PET scan. If everything still looks good like today, I will be taken off my chemo!!!! [The doctor] said this upcoming appointment will be the "big one" and to be safe, they will do another MRI 6 weeks after. Thank you so much for the prayers. They were certainly answered! God is so good!"

I agree wholeheartedly with Courtney. God is so good! He’s been merciful in answering prayers for her healing.

On Friday, I’m traveling to Asheville, NC, to attend a weekend writer’s conference at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. I’d appreciate prayers for my safe travel and for spiritual guidance in my writing career this year. I look forward to sharing my experience with you next week. J

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Images courtesy of thepathtraveler/ (1)
Michael Marcel/ (2)
Stuart Miles/ (3)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Good News From A Far Country

Today, I have the privilege to welcome guest blogger and missionary Pastor Michael Andrzejewski who is currently serving in Portugal with his wife Nina. He shares a heart-felt and very honest mission moment from the field.

Welcome, Michael!

A few weeks ago we had an incident at church. It was something that doesn’t happen in our church. It was something that shouldn’t happen in any church. But it does.

After the service I was outside trying to hang out with the teens in an effort to get my cool points up. When everything went down, my wife had to step in. Literally. She had to step in between two people. One lady actually shoved another and told her to get away from her. In church! There were tears. Stomping. Glares. It all came out of left field, and the damage was done before I knew anything had even happened.

Both of the women involved—we'll call them Euodias and Syntyche—are middle aged. Both have attended our church for several years. To say it like that is kind of like saying that Bill Gates has a little bit in savings. Up until this incident, I would have laughed out loud if you questioned their character. Both have a public testimony of salvation that spans decades. They’ve been friends for over thirty years. They’ve raised their kids together. They’ve seen each other through divorces and funerals. Both of them should know better than to behave like that. They don’t need to read 1 Timothy to find out how to act in church—in the living body.

Yet, you wouldn’t know any of that by the way that either of them acted that day.

For some reason they had to go and get picayune. They had to get silly and selfish. Fleshly. They acted a whole lot more devilish than Christ-like. Hellish is probably the best word to describe what happened. It was ugly and embarrassing and could’ve easily been avoided. Just thinking about it again makes me angry. Mad. Peeved. If I got any madder, I'd want to cuss.

As a pastor it makes my blood boil and my heart race. It irritates my hiatal hernia. Food doesn't go down the right way when junk like this shows up and people just want to stir the pot. I’m not only mad, though. Like the Spirit, I’m deeply grieved. I’m sad. We had a wonderful day. It was our Youth Sunday. Excited young people ministered to our hearts. They led their parents in singing praises. They took hold of the service with a responsibility and a reverence well beyond their years. And then with a shameful amount of immaturity, two grown women ruined it in the blink of an eye.

The guest preacher, a young man who beat cancer and then spent a year in Brazil studying the Bible, had the perfect message for the day. Those two women sat through the message and shut their ears to everything that was said. He told us that there exists only one word to accurately describe those who don’t abide by what they read in God’s Word. Hypocrisy. If we don’t fulfill what’s in those divinely inspired sixty-six books, we’re shallow hypocrites.

As a father it pains me to have to explain it all to my children. Right or wrong—judge me if you will—but I’m less concerned with the disturbers than I am with my own family. I’m less concerned with them than I am with the rest of the church family that was affected. Sin affects people. It destroys lives. It destroys families, and it destroys churches. It aggravates me that because of this—that because of the melodrama—my wife spoke the five least favorite words of all missionary men everywhere: “I’m ready to go back...” She meant it, too.

Her camel just snapped a vertebra.

So, here’s what I want you to get a hold of today. We’ve hit a rough patch. Choppy waters. A lot of times missions is not easy. Juggling multiple cultures within the context a foreign culture can get dicey. It’s tiring and draining and regularly disappointing. Not to mention frustrating. No matter how fluent you are, stuff gets lost in translation. Junk gets jumbled up in semantics and non-verbal cues. The mission field is a very different spiritual battlefield from the good ol’ US of A. Missionaries need your prayers. They need your encouragement. They need your faithful financial support. We need to know that somebody over there is still holding on to the rope.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that you’ve got problems, too, and I’m not pitting my problems against yours. They’re not worse. They’re different. However, let me be kind by saying that we’ve got enough to worry about over here without having to worry about everything that’s going on over there. I’ve got enough to worry about over here than whether we can put food on the table and fuel in the car.

You don’t really know what it’s like to spend three months visiting churches (when you need to be resting) so that you can raise a few hundred dollars a month only to return to the field and have those gains erased because other churches decided to re-allocate their missions budget where they are seeing more conversions. You don’t know what that’s like until you’ve been there.

Just so you don’t misunderstand me or misinterpret what I’m saying—yes, I still believe that we’re firmly planted in the hands of a Sovereign and all-powerful God. His grace is sufficient.

But look, let Nina say that she’s ready to go back because she misses her mother. Let her say she wants to get out of here because she wants to dip a salty fry in a sweet Wendy's Frosty. Let her say that because it’s rained for three weeks straight, and mold is growing on every window seal in our house. But don't under any circumstances force her to say that because the stress from “home” combined with the stress from the field has caused the overall stress to boil over. Please. And while you couldn’t have done anything to help us avoid this incident, and while you can’t do anything to help us manage this incident, you can help by giving good news from a far country every once in a while.

Nina and Michael Andrzejewski
Michael Andrzejewski. Missionary. Writer. Normal Guy. Serving in western Europe since early 2008, with his wife Nina and their 5 kids, Michael loves to share his stories. A graduate of West Point but an introvert by nature, he swims upstream while struggling to pastor cross-culturally. Passionate about both the Gospel and football, he constantly searches for really good sushi. His writing has been published by several small-town newspapers and magazines. You can pick up his first ebook, The Overflow: Avoiding the Normal on He opines about missions at and looks forward seeing Jesus one day. Follow him on Twitter (@cbcportugal).

Prayer Update:
We’ve been praying for Emily, a teenager who has battled Osteosarcoma for a couple of years. She’s having her quarterly scans on Friday. Here’s an excerpt from her father’s update: 
Emily's quarterly scan is scheduled for February 14, 2014 at 1:00 PM...Please continue to send the positive thoughts and prayers for Emily to be clear of cancer and treatment side effects. It is important that we share inspiring stories and events. The brief story below is a tribute to everyone who has encouraged us and whispered prayers on Emily’s and our family’s behalf.
On February 3, 2014, I received a text that made me tearful. Good tears, the kind of tears I never understood. These were the type of tears that flow out of my Wife, Sister-In-Law, Mother, and Mother-In-Law while they are watching Julia Roberts/Sandra Bullock/Hugh Grant "romantic" movies. Maybe the tears started because my testosterone levels are decreasing as I age, maybe the Edamame at dinner increased my estrogen supply, or maybe it was because my wife shared something remarkable with me...She shared with me a simple text and photo. The text stated, "I am tearing up.” Those profound words can suggest good emotions or bad thoughts. In this case, the words described Nicki’s merry sentiment as she watched our Emily perform the Croisé Devant, À la Quatrieme Devant, and Effacé Devant Ballet facing positions at Dana’s Studio of Dance. Emily is dancing again! Happiness can create a tear. The pictures are below. 

On a serious note, one of our friends, Muriel Walters, is in the midst of a horrible battle with Osteosarcoma. Please take a moment to pray, and send positive thoughts to Muriel and her family. With Appreciation, Steve

Please join me in praying for Emily, Muriel, Michael and Nina, and other missionaries around the world. Much of the southeastern United States (where I live) is experiencing a crippling winter storm right now. Please pray for the emergency responders who have to get out in it (my son included), as well as those already chronically ill and those without electricity.

If you have a prayer request you’d like added to our prayer list at the top of the blog, please leave a comment. Please e-mail me any confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you. J While you’re here, please pray for others’ requests.

And would you take a moment to leave a word of encouragement for Michael and Nina? Thanks!

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Mission image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

All Dogs Go To Heaven?

Will I see you again?
“Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 

Do you remember the 1989 animated movie “All Dogs Go To Heaven” that entertained children worldwide? According to the plot, the dog Charlie is killed, goes to heaven, and then returns to earth to find his killer and help an orphan girl. Another hokey ‘80s movie looking back on it now. J Yet, the question of pets in heaven is a mystery. 

Two weeks ago, our dog Dixie died from an aggressive blood vessel cancer she’d been diagnosed with last October. Given only a few days to live, she rebounded and had mostly good days until her sudden downturn. Our prayer had been for a merciful end, and for the most part it was. No lingering or whimpering in pain. And we didn’t have to make a choice to put her down. Even though my heart breaks when I look at the empty places she used to be, I’m thankful for God’s mercy in her death. 

A discussion ensued in our family as to whether pets go to heaven. It’s a tough question without a clear-cut biblical answer. At least not one I’ve found to be definitive. But, as Elisabeth Elliot once said—we would be spiritual dwarfs if God told us everything in the Bible! Some answers we have to search for ourselves, spending time in prayer and the Word, allowing the Holy Spirit to give us discernment. 

So, the million dollar question is: Is searching for the answer on a pet’s eternity even a worthwhile pursuit? I suppose it is when you’re faced with your pet’s death. 

Through the centuries, people have wrestled with whether their pets go to heaven. Apparently, based on the above Bible verse, even King Solomon did. Some people are emphatic that pets don’t have an afterlife and even insist on telling their grieving child that little Spot is dead and buried, never to be seen again. Sorry, but I feel that’s unnecessary. Just my opinion. 

From Rick Warren to C.S. Lewis to Billy Graham, all have voiced opinions and interpretations of the legitimacy of an afterlife for pets. The consensus is, even though dogs don’t have a redeemable spirit, they nonetheless have a spirit. Why wouldn’t God allow them in?

People miss heaven because of their rebellion against God's offer of love, by rejecting Jesus. But dogs, which have no ability to sin nor moral conscience, do not have an ability to reject Jesus. It is the same principle as a baby, young child or mentally challenged individual. The Bible calls them "safe," not "saved." In Proverbs we read, "The Lord preserves the simple," which includes persons without the ability, capacity or moral conscience to reject Jesus." Rick Warren (USA Today)

When God created the earth and every living creature on it, He looked at it and declared it good. Obviously, God is an animal lover. You only have to look at the beauty of nature with its thousands, maybe millions, of species of animals to see this is so. Since the original creation included animals, I believe the new earth will also include animals. I don’t necessarily believe every single animal that ever walked our earth will be resurrected. I think the difference will lie in the essence of their spirit and perhaps their earthly purpose. Although in the beginning Adam and Eve were vegetarians and instructed not to kill or eat animals, that changed after man’s fall. However, for sacrifices and food, only very specific animals were allowed.

And after the flood, God felt it worthy to include animals in his covenant:

“I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth.” Genesis 9:9-10 

Although the Bible is clear on animals being part of the new world, the bottom line is—no one can prove conclusively whether eternity will include our pets. It’s barely possible God left this vague because of the grief it would cause to know conclusively. Just like the marriage covenant is for the benefit of humans on earth and won’t transfer into our eternal life, it’s just as possible pets are for our earthly comfort and gratification now but won’t transfer into heaven. As distressing as this may make those of us who are pet owners, I believe when we get to heaven, it won’t be an issue. There are lots, okay, some J married folks who grieve that they’ll no longer be married in heaven. God will wipe this sorrow away. We’ll have different lives, ones we can’t fathom now, but in God’s infinite wisdom, they’ll be incredibly fulfilling for us and glorifying for Him. So the issue of marriage or pets, things of our current earthly life, won’t be important. 

“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:10 (click to tweet)

We have to trust that God loves animals probably more than we do and will treat them fairly. And I’ll go a step further and say as faithful as my pets have been, it’s barely possible that in their pure hearts and motives, untouched by a sin nature, they reciprocate that love better than we humans do.

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:13

For now, in my grief, I’ll allow myself the comfort of imagining Dixie in heaven, whole and pain-free, and one day I’ll see her again. If you believe differently, that’s fine, too. I’d love for you to share your feelings or thoughts on the topic.

Do you believe you’ll see your pet in heaven one day? (click to tweet)
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11:6-9
If you’re currently grieving a loss, whether a loved one, friend, or a pet, or have a prayer request on any topic, leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I’ll be glad to join you in prayer. Remember, no issue is too big or too small for our Father. If it matters to you, it matters to Him.
God bless,
©Laura Hodges Poole

Animated image courtesy of luigi diamanti/

Additional reading:
"Do Dogs Go To Heaven?" by Mike Clinton