Thursday, December 24, 2015

When God Met Me At Wal-Mart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a Merry Christmas celebrating the birth of our Savior!

God bless,
Laura

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving—A Fragrant Offering

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

Thanksgiving Day we pause 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.

Then we rush headlong into a gorge-fest of commercialism. Americans devote one day a year for thanks, and it’s quickly diminishing while greed is escalating.

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, I think of how we, as Christians, can model something different 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 Thursday night before Thanksgiving is even over, whatever the case may be. Or filling in our December calendar with parties and other activities. 

To truly emulate God, the most important thing we can do tomorrow, 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.

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

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 single 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 encourage 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.


If you have a prayer request, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or email me confidential requests. If you’re traveling today, know that you’re included in my prayers for travel mercies and safety. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

God bless,
Laura 

©Laura Hodges Poole

“Pumpkin Pie” image courtesy of Apolonia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Christmas Nativity” image courtesy of Prawny/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, September 11, 2015

Eternal Hope In The Midst of Darkness

If the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us. Psalm 124:2-3 

I still get chills watching the film footage of planes slamming into the World Trade Center on 09/11/01, the buildings falling, and people screaming and running. I’m immediately transported back to that day and how life unfolded in the aftermath. When would the next attack happen? Would we ever feel safe again?

As many Americans did, I clung to my faith. No matter what, God was with us. Tragic things happen in this world, yet we foolishly believed they didn’t happen here—at least not on that large of a scale.

On 9/11, and in the days and weeks to follow, political party lines were erased. President Bush reassured us from the top of the Twin Towers rubble with a bullhorn in his hand and again, days later, when he bravely walked to the center of a major league baseball field and threw out the first pitch. Congress stood arm-in-arm on the steps of the Capitol and sang God Bless America. We were one people with one voice joined in determination to protect what America stood for—freedom.

Josh's 7th birthday party
But there was another angle to 9/11 for my family. My son Josh turned seven years old that day. We had serendipitously celebrated with a party the Saturday before. The naïve belief in our nation’s security that the party-goers and our family appreciated three days before the attacks was shattered, much like Pearl Harbor had done decades before. Though Josh has enjoyed birthdays since, they’ve never quite been the same.

My son’s generation has grown up in the shadow of the war on terror. Some of his earliest memories are of his country going to war—a war brought to our shores as it had been sixty years earlier. I had a difficult time making sense out of the attack and an even more difficult time explaining it to him.

Born out of this tragedy was renewed patriotism for many Americans, young and old alike. The scenes of firefighters running into towers that eventually collapsed on them had a profound effect on Josh, as it did for many of his generation. The firefighters’ sacrifice instilled in him a sense of duty toward his country and fellow man. Many like Josh were galvanized into action, even though at a young age of 7, he could only be angry that it happened.

18th birthday
When Josh turned 16, he joined our volunteer fire department’s teen explorer program and began taking the rigorous classes needed to be a firefighter. After two years of training and service, he proudly received his “black helmet” on his 18th birthday, signifying his full firefighter status. It was all he talked about for weeks before. After graduating high school, he went on to community college where he recently obtained an A.S. in Fire Science. The job market is tough with seventy percent of our nation’s firefighters being volunteers. If someone had told me in the midst of all that tragedy fourteen years ago that Josh would be a paid firefighter working on his 21st birthday, I couldn’t have wrapped my mind around it. Yet, he is. And I couldn’t be prouder knowing he serves the community today.

Americans changed in the years following the attack. We’re all battle weary from the evil perpetrated on us that clear September morning and the wars and terror since. We learned on 9/11 that the bubble of security we’d foolishly wrapped ourselves in did not exist. Every year seems to bring a new normal of what terror looks like and a renewed sense that we are impotent to protect ourselves from it.

But we also reaffirmed something Americans knew before the attacks. Americans pull together for the good of all. Americans overcome. As we pause to honor the victims of 9/11 today, let us do so with the spirit of hope their lives represented. It’s a thought that’s desperately needed in our current social and political climate when Americans now seem most interested in things that divide.

We must never give up hope.

You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. Job 11:18 

Even in his worst trial, Job had hope. We have a duty as Christians to reject despair, rejoice in the hope found in Christ Jesus, and go about the daily business of life—no matter what tragedies befall us.

Life truly is how you choose to frame it.

9/11 symbolizes America’s heartache and perseverance, but it’s also a symbol of one of the greatest days of my life—the day my son was born.

While we mourn with those who mourn, rejecting despair is imperative to the Christian life and witness. Good can arise from the worst circumstances. We only have to look to the 9/11 survivor stories to know this is true. It’s only through God, that during the dark times, we can experience the light of eternal hope (Romans 5:1-5). 

Do you have a special Bible verse you turn to in adversity—maybe even during the 9/11 terrorist attacks or their aftermath? I’d love for you to share it. Leave a comment to inspire other readers and for a chance to win a kindle copy of my devotional, While I’m Waiting: Going from despair to hope while praising God and choosing contentment during trials. 

If you need prayer, please share in the comments or email me confidential requests. I'd love to pray for you. 

God bless you all,
Laura

© Laura Hodges Poole

“One World Trade Center Tower” image courtesy of Franky242/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Despair or Hope” image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Perfect Love

When I was a little girl, my daddy seemed larger than life. In my eyes, he was perfect. He could do anything, fix anything, and included me in whatever he did, no matter how busy he was. Living on a small farm, I often trudged along behind him, down the garden rows, my little bare toes squishing in the sandy Florida dirt. I helped weed or dropped seedlings into holes he dug. Sometimes I chatted or sang while he worked.
The only thing I didn’t want to participate in? 

Butchering time.

I’d hide in the house, crying for our pets livestock that would go into the freezer and eventually end up on the dinner table. But I was smart enough to realize food raised meant less money had to be spent in the store. Hunger is the best spice, Laura Ingalls Wilder once said. It can also be characterized as a great memory eraser, so I didn’t cry for long. Death is a necessary part of living—a lesson I learned even more intimately as I lost human loved ones over the years. One that modern-day parents try to shield their kids from and then wonder why they have a “why me” mentality when loss occurs.

But I digress.

As I grew older, my dad’s flaws became more apparent to me, and as a teenager, I railed against learning anything from him. Now, at age 50, I’ve come full circle and am hard-pressed to find any man, besides Jesus, who is more perfect than my father.

Among the important things my father taught me is love. Yes, love is taught. Not just modeled or felt, but taught. This meant discipline and rebuke along with affection. My dad is the softest tough man I know. I liken him to a tree surgeon. He pruned and it hurt, but he applied gentle salve to my soul and coaxed my growth with his love.

It wasn’t long before another man, one even more supernatural than my father, appeared in my life. Not surprisingly, a man modeled through my father. And in those tumultuous teenage years, when I felt no one else would listen, Jesus did. He once said the meek shall inherit the earth.

Meek doesn’t mean weakness but rather controlled strength. Jesus loved and hung out with sinners but never condoned their sin. As recorded in the gospels, he often ended an encounter or healing with “go and sin no more.” He understood that the root of most people’s problems is sin. Not a politically correct statement to make anymore but one nonetheless true.

Love is patient and kind, but it also rejects evil and rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:4-6 NIV). This includes rebuking as Jesus and my father did. Love doesn’t mean excusing bad behavior or not setting boundaries with those unhealthy to be around—no matter how much you love them.

I came to realize rather quickly that these two men were the ones I could count on. Dad and I butt heads about some things, and he can be cantankerous at almost 80 years old, but his spiritual compass points squarely at our Savior and always has.

And Jesus? As the old hymn says, He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He’s provided me comfort when I thought there wasn’t any. He’s given me strength and hope when I had none. He’s promised me a future. He forgives my sins. He calms my anxieties.

How?

Not only through my daily spiritual walk but through His words:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 

 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7  

Who walks with you on life’s narrow way? If you’ve not met my friend Jesus, why not pick up the Bible and let Him introduce Himself in the gospels? I assure you, you won’t be disappointed. He’ll love you with a love that “protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7). 

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

Today, Saturday, and Sunday (9/4-9/6/15) my devotional, While I'm Waitingwill be FREE for Kindle download on Amazon. This will take you on a journey to experience hope and contentment while waiting on an answer to prayer. Also, my most recent project, Path to Love, a Christian romance, is available for FREE from Amazon. Take a moment to download your copies!

God bless,
Laura

© Laura Hodges Poole

“Bible and the Heavens” image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Step Away From The Drapes!

It's just that in the Deep South, women learn at a young age that when the world is falling apart around you, it's time to take down the drapes and make a new dress. ~Karen Marie Moning, author

How many times have you taken down the drapes and made a new dress? Sometimes I feel like my closet is full of new dresses—and they’re not the store-bought kind!

The scene of Scarlett O’Hara taking down the drapes to make a new dress in Gone With The Wind is iconic. Especially for Southern women. That mentality is bred into us. But what is it about women in general that when adversity strikes, we muddle through, plow through, or torpedo through? The intensity depends on what the situation calls for. If it involves our children, we definitely shift into overdrive.

While it’s important to see the glass half full and push through the hard times in life, it’s also important to take a step back and wait for God to show you the dresses you already have and what to do with the drapes other than rip them down.

There is such a thing as being too tough. Too self-reliant. Too brave. After all, as Christians, our strength comes from Christ (Philippians 4:13 NIV). When we rely solely on self, we often become hardened like drought-stricken land, unable to soak up blessings when showered upon us. Yet, a soft heart comforts others and receives blessings God intends.

Sometimes it’s enough to crumple into a heap at Jesus’ feet and wait for his healing hand to reach out and lift us up.

But there’s also a danger in not being willing to walk the tough road, in being tossed about in the wind, unable to find the strength to pray with confidence (James 1:5-6). 

So where is the balance?

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Isaiah 26:12 

Rest in the knowledge that God is already out ahead of you. He’s established a peaceful place for our soul to rest when trials threaten to overwhelm us. All that we have accomplished He’s done for us. Does that mean we don’t have to work? Certainly not. But He’s there—ahead of the work. He knows where our successes lie and where our failures will strengthen, not harden, us. Praise Him for meeting your needs and seek His wisdom in your life. His solution is always better than ours.

Next time you’re tempted to rely on your strength alone, remember the same God who furnished the drapes will provide the dresses. They may not have designer labels or even be new, but they’ll be sufficient for your needs.

Will you trust Him for that today?

Do you have a prayer need? Please leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I’d love to join you in prayer.

God bless,
Laura

What’s your favorite Bible verse(s) in times of adversity? Leave a comment this week (through 6/2/15) to be entered in a drawing for a free copy of my Kindle ebook, "While I'm Waiting."

© Laura Hodges Poole

“Young Woman Near River” image courtesy of marin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Young Woman Opening Curtains” image courtesy of FrameAngel/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Lyme Disease Awareness Month - Guest Post


I have known a few people over the years who’ve battled Lyme Disease. It is a debilitating illness that few understand. May is Lyme Disease awareness month. Click here to learn more about the cause, prevention, symptoms, and diagnosis.

According to the CDC, “Lyme disease is a multisystem disease…transmitted through the bite of certain species of blacklegged ticks… In 2013, state and local health departments reported approximately 35,000 cases of Lyme disease to CDC, making it the fifth most commonly reported nationally notifiable condition…as many as 300,000 persons in the United States might be diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease each year.” (cdc.gov)

I’m privileged today to welcome Paula Jackson Jones to share her story through a poignant letter she wrote to herself five years after contracting Lyme Disease. If you know someone who has been newly diagnosed or has suffered for years, this will give you insight into their struggle. If you’re the one with the diagnosis, I hope Paula’s words will be an encouragement to you.

Dear Paula 2009,

I know this is going to sound strange, but in just a few short months something is going to happen to you, something that you are not expecting, something you didn't ask for or were even aware could happen. Your life is going to change in ways you never fathomed.

I am writing this letter in hopes to prepare you, to bring you some comfort, for what lies ahead is not pretty or easy. I know you consider yourself a strong, resilient woman. I know what you've been through, what you've survived. I am here to remind you that all that strength will be needed, will be used. All those coping skills will become an asset in ways you never thought you'd have to use them. I am here to assure you that you will survive it even though there will be times you'll cry out to GOD to call you home, when the pain is so unbearable it supersedes any other thought.

I am writing this letter because I know how you think, how you operate, and I want to tell you that what you think and what you know will be challenged. People you trust will fail you, turn their backs on you, and walk away. They will mock you because they won't understand what you're going through. I know how frustrated you'll become because you won't understand it either. You'll want compassion and support, and I am here to tell you that you'll get it—but in the most unconventional forms.

Don't worry about the ones who let you down, who walk away, because their absence will make room for all the new people who will come into your life; people who share this journey with you, who understand you in ways even those closest cannot. They will inspire you with their stories, educate you with their experience, and encourage you to fight the good fight and stay the course. One day, they will recruit you to join them as a fellow Lyme warrior, Educator, Advocator, and Supporter.

I am writing this letter because, although your body will break down and you will lose sight of the woman you once knew, you will be rebuilt into something stronger, something greater.

Now listen, you survived all those things before this, this path will strengthen you even more. It will grow you in a direction you never thought about but are needed in. And as you grow, you will have all the support you need for every step of the way. I need you to remember this part because you will lose every ounce of strength that you have. Even the most mundane daily chores will be taken from you. You'll be attacked from all sides—physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I am writing this letter to assure you, although there will be some very dark moments filled with some of the worst pain you've ever felt, you won't be alone. Your cries will be heard, your tears collected. All your ashes will be saved and restored one day. I am here as living proof that you will survive this pain, the darkness, the despair, and even the heartbreak of everything that you will lose. I am here to tell you pride won't get you anywhere. You will have to ask for help. It will humble you and from there, you will grow. There are lessons to be learned, and whether you want to or not, you will learn them!

Now this next part of the letter may be difficult to read and even harder to grasp.

Those doctors whom you've place all your trust and faith in will fail you on the first part of your journey. They will challenge you and exasperate you. You're going to face some difficult times and hear some not-so-nice things. You're going to feel alone and desperate. You're going to feel lost and hopeless. But I am here to remind you to stay the course, don't give up because Hope is out there. You just need to keep going and connect the dots. You're going to have to listen to others who have gone down this path, and you'll need to filter things and do your own research (that part I know you will love). The frustration will come from the many walls you hit, but keep hitting them, for one day they will crumble, and you'll see a path that will take you in a different direction.

Please trust me—you want to take this path.

As unconventional as this path may seem, it’s going to save your life. You won't understand a lot at first, but the people you meet on this path will teach you in ways so you’ll fully understand everything and know what to expect. They will stay close to you and check in on you. You will never feel alone again. They will empower you with their unconventional ways and empower you to want to get better, to want to make a difference...for others.

I am writing this letter because I don't want you to give up hope. I can't say how long this bend in the road will be, for I am still here on this journey five years later but so much better than I ever was. I can say now that I never thought this day would come—but it did. I will tell you that you will get better but not before you feel worse. That is just par for the course but remember these words—you will feel better and you will see your life going in a new direction.

When you first become sick, you're going to think this will pass. I am here to tell you that it will, but it will take time. It will get worse before it gets better; that is just how chronic illnesses work. This illness will forever change your life. It will break you down physically as it grows you spiritually. It will strengthen core values within you that had been ignored and make them a priority. It will change your outlook on life and set your feet on a new path. You won't know where you are going or when you will get there, but that won't matter because you'll enjoy all the stops and people you meet along the way.

I am writing this letter because I know you will find all of this hard to believe. Doctors turning their backs, insurance wars, outdated guidelines by the IDSA and CDC, misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis, and failed treatment. I know how you think. But trust me, it will be bad. It'll be frustrating. It'll make you scream at doctors and reduce you to tears in public settings. You won't care anymore, but I am here to tell you DON'T GIVE UP! There will be many stumbling blocks, but you will advance. You will need to lean on these new friends and borrow some of their strength until you regain yours. Just remember to pay it forward!

I hope I've been able to get through to you, and I know this all sounds like crazy talk (and you will be accused of that too while on this journey). I am writing this letter to tell you to keep pushing forward, don't take NO for an answer. When you hit a wall, keep pounding until it crumbles. When you feel lost, cry out for people are there to help you. When you feel alone, lift your head and look at the thousands who stand with you.

You won't know or even remember all their names, but you'll know their stories and that connection will forever link you to each other and strengthen one another even from a distance. That connection will take a debilitating disease that can weaken even the strongest, toughest person and make them #Lymestrong \0/

Love,
Paula 2014

©paulajacksonjones2014
lymewarrior24/7/365

Thank you for sharing your courageous journey, Paula.

If you’d like to share your thoughts with Paula or offer encouragement, please leave a comment. I know she’d love to hear from you.

God bless,
Laura

“Disease or Health Direction” image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Unhappy Woman Hiding Her Face” image courtesy of Stock Images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Hope Puzzles” image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Hope For Cure” image courtesy of vitasamb2001/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

When The Sun Shines On Rain

“Is the spring coming?" he said. "What is it like?"...
"It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine...”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, author The Secret Garden

What a beautiful picture Burnett paints with her words. Here in South Carolina, the tulips and daffodils have long since bloomed, and the hot days feel more like summer than spring. We finally got rain yesterday, and it was glorious!

Seems like we went from winter to summer overnight.

Do you ever feel time races past you? It certainly has felt that way this year for me. In February, I blogged live from The Cove as I attended a writers’ conference. The weekend was cathartic for me, rejuvenating my writing and reigniting my love for the creative process. The problem? Not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that I want. I suppose that’s something most people feel, whether they’re creatively bent or not.

Even nature seems hurried when it rains and sun shines at the same time!

The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. Ecclesiastes 1:5-6 NIV 

As the days fly by, I try not to feel the pinch of fleeting time and carve out time for quiet. It’s in these moments that God meets us. And if you’re really quiet and still, He’ll share His plans for your life. Not in the hurriedness of our requests, but in the moments of reflection and openness, we hear Him. His compassions are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). He makes our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

So, do I really need to worry about not getting things accomplished? Or feel rushed to do more than I possibly can each day? No, and this has been an ongoing lesson for me that God probably wonders if I’ll ever learn completely.

In the scope of life, the undone doesn’t matter near as much as how we’ve lived or affected those God has placed in our lives.

Our only goal should be to hear these words one day: Well done, good and faithful servant. Matthew 25:23 

How do you find quiet moments with God? Do you have a favorite place or time of day that you spend with Him?

I’d love to join you in prayer, if you have a need. Please leave a comment or email me confidential requests.

God bless,
Laura
"Winter" me at The Cove J
© Laura Hodges Poole

“Background Sun Indicates Raining” image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Bluebell Woods” image courtesy of Rob Wiltshire/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Encountering The Cross

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30

I don’t know about you, but I love Easter, even more than Christmas. Perhaps it has something to do with the purity in celebrating the resurrection versus the almost total commercialism Christmas has become. (Though some have sought to do the same with Easter.) Maybe it’s because I feel the renewing of my spirit as I celebrate Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, much like nature is reborn each spring.

Easter is a time for Christians to explore whether their lives conform to the image of Christ. How do we do that? By embracing the fact that it’s our destiny.

God has predestined us to fellowship with Him and do His Kingdom work. But how is this possible, when sin and our own self-focus often interfere? There’s only one way—through the cross.

Jesus’ earthly life and ministry culminated on the cross for our salvation. This was the central focus of everything He did. He loves us that much! (John 15:13). One could say His destiny was the cross. Yet, in order for His death to mean anything, He had to choose it.

God created us with free will to choose our own path. Once we encountered the cross and became Christians, we were no longer our own. Because of this, every decision we make reflects Christ to the world.

“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 

Christianity means living much deeper and broader than ourselves. We must never forget what an awesome and enormous responsibility it is to carry the name of Jesus.

The cross was costly. When Jesus was resurrected, an enormous price had been exacted on Him. He bore the wages for our sin. This Sunday, when we celebrate His resurrection, take a moment to consider that cost. It’s easy to become complacent in the politically correct society we live in, when faced with moral and social issues, and forget the price of our redemption. We have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Are we willing to take up the cross of Christ and the cost it encompasses? Consider these thoughts from Jim Elliot, a martyred missionary:

“We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the twentieth century does not reckon with. But we are "harmless," and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are "sideliners"coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh, that God would make us dangerous!”

Amen!

When you analyze your life, does it resemble the world or the cross? For Jesus, it was all about the cross. As we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior on Easter morning, can we say the same?

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

Have a beautiful Resurrection Sunday!

Shalom,
Laura 


“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

©Laura Hodges Poole

“Golgota” image courtesy of bela_kiefer/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Sunrise and Misty at Mountain” courtesy of Photokanok/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Celebrating A Half Century

Papa and me (1965)
You whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:3b-4 NIV 

What a great promise! As I reflect back over my last fifty years, I can’t begin to count the number of times in my life God has sustained and carried me—through loss and grief, the excitement of raising two beautiful children, and the roller coaster ride of both mountaintop and valley experiences of life. I’m fortunate most of my immediate family are still alive and my parents both in good health. I enjoy good health, a roof over my head, employment, and people who love me. I’ve been fortunate to have success in what I’m most passionate about—writing.

The reasons to give thanks are infinite! At the top of the list is the gift of forgiveness and grace God extends to me daily.

On a milestone birthday, one often reminisces about times of old and reflects on missed opportunities and achievements. I’m no different. A child of the 70s and early 80s, I witnessed the disco era, Watergate, and the introduction of computers.

Now the kings of disco (my favorites as a teenager), the Bee Gees, are no more. Only one silver-haired brother remains. My hair isn’t quite that gray yet, but it definitely makes me feel old when I mark time by the passing of cultural icons of my generation. Pay phones and snail mail letters are almost completely gone, too. Although, vinyl records are coming back among the retro crowd! I guess I’ve lived long enough to be retro. J

But rather than lament the passage of time, I am so grateful for the One who sustained me through change—both good and bad. And as I celebrate my fiftieth birthday, it’s not enough to reminisce or celebrate past achievements.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might… Ecclesiastes 9:10a 

If God chooses to bless me with continued longevity and good health, I want to be about doing His Kingdom work with all my might. In all that I do, I must continue to seek His will—to shine His light in this darkened world. I’m so blessed He gave me both the desire and talent to write. I can’t imagine a life without this gift. I want my writing to bear fruit, stay fresh, and encourage those who read it.

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. Psalm 92:14  

And to that end, in celebration of my fiftieth birthday, I’m giving away the Kindle version of both of my books. (Print versions are also available for purchase.) You don’t have to enter a drawing or leave a comment (though I always love hearing from my readers). Simply click on the links below through March 15, 2015, to claim your books. Share this with your friends. I’d like to give away as many books as possible to celebrate reaching the half-century mark of my life. What a glorious thing to be able to say! Praise be to God!

Click HERE to claim your free copy of my devotional

Click HERE to claim your FREE copy of my novella

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

God bless,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole

“Disc” image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Learn, Pray, Act

“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.”~ Josh Whedon, author, screenwriter, director

When I was a little girl, I’d trek alongside my father as he worked in his garden that spanned an acre or more of our property. The soft, hot Florida sand squished between my bare toes, and sweat streamed down my little cheeks. Sometimes I ran to keep up with his long strides. Sometimes he slowed his step and took my hand. If I had one word to describe my father, it would be the word “doer.”

God calls us to be doers of His Word (James 1:22). How do we prepare to be a doer? Or do we merely allow the Spirit to guide us in certain situations through divine appointments?

Both.

Imperative to Christian life, ministry effectiveness, and spiritual growth is learning—absorbing God’s Word and other Christian books and resources—in order to share with others. If we really want to be led spiritually, immersing ourselves in scripture is the first step.

And we should want to do this, right? I’m the first to admit I have trouble wading through genealogy, or details of the building of the tabernacle and outlining of the law in Exodus and Leviticus. But hidden in those genealogy lists are Bible heroes—their stories are ones of persecution, hope, deliverance, and ultimately, the birth of our Savior. Instead of skimming over, think of the sacrifices of Ruth, the failure and forgiveness of King David, and the obedience of Obadiah. Somewhere among these stories is our story, as well.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
We also want to be led by the Holy Spirit. Actually, this is the ultimate goal. It’s only possible by coupling learning with prayer.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 4:6
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

Think about it. Which friend do you count on the most? The one you regularly interact with, knows you intimately—the good, bad, and the ugly—and still loves you? Or the one you exchange pleasantries with occasionally?

The same is true of our relationship with God. When you know Him intimately, learn His nature, and are able to trust Him completely, this resonates in our message to others. We can’t possibly share a God we don’t know on an intimate level. When the Bible says we are made in His image, His handiwork, we can believe it. He longs for a relationship with us. Spending time with Him is the most important part of our lives. 

Learning and praying alone isn’t the endgame for a Chrisitan. Yes, we want to draw closer to God and become more like Christ for eternity. But, we’re saved not only for ourselves but for others.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
That’s good news. God has prepared work for us to do. He wants us to act! It’s not enough to learn and pray, if we don’t use it to help someone outside ourselves. Humans are not static. Relationships are not static. God has placed us in family and friendships He deemed important. Whether it’s your neighbor, brother, or co-worker, God has a message to relay through you. We may not even be aware of what the specific message is, but God knows what that other person needs. You may be the one He has chosen to share it.

Explore whether God wants you involved in missions outside of your inner circle—foreign or domestic—physically or financially. We all have talents and spiritual gifts to share. Seek God’s wisdom in this. We are His workmen here on earth. May we always be one “who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18 
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 
Learn, Pray, Act.
  • Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you ~Thomas Jefferson
  • Never confuse movement with action. ~Ernest Hemingway
  • Faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe. ~Mitch Albom, author
What’s your favorite Bible verse that motives you to act? Is there one that caused a turning point in your life and called you to action?

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

God bless,
Laura

© Laura Hodges Poole

Recommended resources available online for comprehensive Bible study:

BBN Radio Bible Institute. Free online classes in Bible doctrine, Christian living, Bible books and characters, and more with 117 divisions of study and multiple classes within each division. Certificates are offered with each completion of a division. I have taken a few of these classes and can highly recommend them.

Thru The Bible Radio. Tons of free resources including study guides, notes and outlines, and downloads are available to help you with an in-depth study of the Bible in five years. Even if you don’t listen to the audio, the other resources will provide you with tremendous study potential. I’ve listened to Dr. J. Vernon McGee for years on the radio and have downloaded and printed many of his resources.

Bible Gateway Scripture Engagement. “This section of Bible Gateway, created in partnership with the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, outlines a set of practical exercises and activities you can undertake to interact more meaningfully with the Bible (Bible Gateway).” Many links are available to teach you how to successfully approach reading scripture. 

“Bible” image courtesy of Janaka Dharmasena/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Young Woman Praying Sincerely” image by David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Action Screen Show Motivation” image by Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net