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,

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/
“Africa” image courtesy of africa/
“Lady Holding Shopping Bag” image courtesy of imagerymajestic/
“Natural Window” image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/

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


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/
“Question Mark & Cursors” image courtesy of hywards/
“Bald eagle at sunrise” image courtesy of Ron Bird/

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 Hodges Poole

“Woman Face” photo courtesy of graur codrin/