Saturday, January 16, 2021

We Put Our Hope In You

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love. Psalm 33:12-13, 18 

If you’re like me, you looked forward to 2021. A new start, a fresh slate to create beautiful memories. To laugh and hope again. Instead, it seems the beast of 2020 threatens to engulf those hopes. Without a doubt, our nation is hurting—collectively and personally.

Yet, as Christians, our hope is in an unfailing love—that of God through our Savior Jesus Christ. God looks down from heaven and sees us. Wow, such comforting thought!

God is not caught unaware of any trial we walk through. No matter how bleak the present feels and the future looks, we can embrace that hope and the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit residing in us.

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 4:6 

As we face next week and the months ahead as a nation, let us consider this prayer from President George Washington:

I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have the United States in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the Devine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.  Amen (adapted from Washington’s Circular Letter to the States, in June 1783)

May God continue to bless us, according to His holy will.

I’d love to join you in prayer! Please leave a comment or email me your requests. 

What Bible verse sustains and encourages you in difficult times? 

Blessings,

Laura 

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:22


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Renewed Hope In The New Year


…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Romans 5:2-5 NIV

Romans 5 tell us that perseverance leads to hope and that hope doesn’t disappoint. We've all had to persevere through a tough year, and we can only hope that 2021 will be better. For Christians, this isn’t an ordinary hope. It’s a hope that comes through the Holy Spirit living in us—that no matter what happens in our earthly life, we have a resurrected hope in eternity. We're able to lean on God’s strength to face whatever challenges lie ahead, and be filled with His supernatural hope to see us through.

As we ring in the New Year, enjoy this excerpt from Lord Alfred Tennyson's poem, In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells] 

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

   The flying cloud, the frosty light:

   The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

 

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

   The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

 

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;

   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

   Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.

 

Ring in the valiant man and free,

   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

   Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be. 

I don't know about you, but I'm determined to embrace a renewed sense of hope in 2021 that only Christ can bring! Happy New Year! 

God bless,

Laura

Monday, October 26, 2020

Learning to Stand, Even When the Armor Slips

During the past four years as I’ve grieved the loss of my daughter, one of my lifelines has been reading Scripture. Memorized verses transform into prayers when my mind and heart get caught in a cycle of despair. 

Recently, I’ve studied strength verses because strength is what I need most. Strength to continue to face the future without my daughter. Strength to keep going despite health issues. Strength to get through pandemic challenges. I’m sure you can relate in our “new normal” of 2020.

Ephesians 6:13 says to put on the armor of God so that “you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

To stand. You don’t simply strap on God’s armor and stand. You have to keep standing!

I don’t know about you, but I often find that challenging. Sometimes I feel like King David when he was merely shepherd boy David, struggling to make the king’s armor fit him. But unlike David, I can’t take off the armor. God has equipped us differently to fight spiritual battles. The more we saturate our minds and hearts with Scripture, the better the armor fits, and God's strength enables us to stand.

As the Apostle Paul said, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the … powers of this dark world” (Eph. 6:12).  Whether grieving a loved one, battling a pandemic, dealing with job loss or a difficult family member—our only hope in the struggle is God’s strength manifested through us.

My most recent inspirational romance novel released October 13. Not surprising that I share a few traits with Misty, the main character in Hope’s Gentle Touch. She also lacked strength, though her lack of strength came from living in abusive relationship. Her story is a journey of learning to stand again, and intertwined with that strength is love and hope. God intended His strength to be the force by which we’re able to stand—and His gentleness to be a fertile ground for love and hope to grow.

Do you struggle with letting God be your strength—and thus being a source of gentle hope to those in your life? Spend time in His Word and at His feet in prayer. You’ll be able to stand, knowing His presence surrounds you, no matter what circumstance you’re in. He’ll give you strength and meet your needs in ways you could never imagine

How may I pray for you today? Please leave a comment or email me. While you're at it, share a favorite Bible verse that sustains you. I've shared a few at the end of this post. I’d love to hear from you!

Laura Hodges Poole is an award-winning Christian author. Her novel, Return to Walhalla, was a Selah Award finalist. She enjoys encouraging others through her writing and mentoring. On beautiful days in South Carolina, you might find her hiking instead of writing. A mother of two and empty-nester, Laura enjoys a quiet life with her husband. Visit her website by clicking here.

(Devotion photos courtesy of Pixabay.)

Click here to order your copy of Hope’s Gentle Touch

Praise for Hope’s Gentle Touch:

Poole handles the tender topic of abuse with grace and just enough tension to remind the reader that our happily ever afters are often hard won. She writes with the kind of authenticity and wisdom that transforms a sweet romance into a meaningful tale that will give readers something to think about long after turning the last page.
~Sarah Loudin Thomas, Christy-nominated author of Miracle in a Dry Season

A heartwarming novel with characters you can't quit rooting for. This book is perfect for fans of small-town inspirational romance.
~Heidi McCahan, author of Unraveled

Hope’s Gentle Touch is a profound look at the effects of spouse/ date abuse on its victims. Heartbreaking and honest, the story weaves a realistic psychological study of the long-lasting turmoil faced by those who are trapped or have been trapped in abusive relationships. Yet author Laura Poole offers words of hope in the midst of tragedy, light in the midst of the darkness. A well-crafted novel that will bring understanding about this often-hidden evil. ~Elaine Marie Cooper, author, Love’s Kindling, Scarred Vessels


After her abusive husband’s death, Misty Stephens returns to her job as a nurse and volunteer at a women’s shelter. She intends to put her life back together and has no intention of ever being vulnerable to a man again. But when an abuse victim dies in her care, Misty finds herself consoling the girl’s brother ... and fighting attraction. 

Adam Jenkins sees Misty’s heart for the oppressed and implores her to help build Hope House, a women’s shelter, in honor of his sister. Though grieving, Adam is drawn to Misty. But he approaches romance the way he does ranching—quick and decisive—an almost disastrous mistake. While dealing with family fallout and troubles at work, this new project and Misty become a light shining into Adam’s grief. 

A common purpose binds them together, and Misty’s heart starts to open to Adam. But she finds it much harder to lower her defenses than she imagined. Can any man be fully trusted—especially a powerful, wealthy rancher? When the past rears its ugly head and her reality starts to crumble, Misty's trust in God and hope for a bright future are put to the test. Will hope’s gentle touch finally bring the love Misty’s heart needs to heal? 

Zachariah 4:6Joshua 1:9Psalm 62:1-2Philippians 4:13

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Last Supper And Jesus’ Quandary


Leonardo da Vinci’s depiction of The Last Supper is one of the most famous paintings in history. 

Why did this scene captivate da Vinci, along with untold numbers of other folks over the last few centuries? The story behind the Last Supper of Jesus and His disciples is compelling on so many levels.

For Christians, it symbolizes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the atonement of our sins. For centuries, we have commemorated it with communion in our churches.

The Bible records the Last Supper of Christ and His disciples during Passover in the four gospels. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke give a snapshot of the evening, John gives a more detailed, personal account of Jesus’ purpose for the evening in chapters 13-17.

Jesus’ life and ministry culminated on the night of the Last Supper. Jews all over Israel celebrated the Passover Feast, but Jesus had a much higher agenda for His “family” of three years. He was there to say good-bye and give final instructions to prepare His disciples for ministry. With the Holy Spirit’s help, they would pick up the torch and carry Jesus’ ministry forward. Luke 22:15 records that Jesus “eagerly desired” to share the Passover meal with them. Yet, from their words and Jesus’ admonitions, we see there was still much for them to learn.

Like most families during the holidays, Jesus’ inner circle wasn’t without its foibles.
Foibles = Weaknesses
Even after Jesus washes their feet in a lesson about servanthood, Luke 22:24 shows the disciples still squabbling over their places in His kingdom. One brooded about his perceived notion of Jesus’ earthly kingdom, and Jesus called him out on his plan of betrayal in John 13:18-27.

Was Jesus disappointed, with so much at stake, that His followers still behaved in a very human fashion? After all, He had spent three years trying to mold them into men capable of carrying His ministry into the future.

We don’t see the frustration Jesus displayed in other places in the Gospels, such as Mark 9:14-29. We see patience in our Lord at the Last Supper, even though He corrected the men. This was to be the last time before his death that they sat together, sharing a meal, receiving instructions, and praying. Jesus was in His brother mode as well as His father mode.

It’s easy for us to believe we would’ve behaved differently than the disciples. If Jesus were here today in the flesh, teaching us, surely it wouldn’t have taken three years for us to comprehend that He is the Messiah and to overcome our human nature. Yet, as we look at our own lives and Christ’s hand in our trials and triumphs, we are capable of being just as whiny, divisive, and self-promoting as the twelve disciples.

We can all think of occasions where a situation didn’t work out the way we envisioned, and we took matters into our own hands to make it work. Maybe not to the extent Judas did, but nevertheless we tried to give God the agenda we wanted Him to work by. And if we’re honest, we’ll admit we’ve argued our point of view, much like Peter, even when through God’s Word or prayer we’re being told something different.

Jesus’ quandary wasn’t so much that He had to go to the cross, although that was a dire situation to be in. Rather, the intensity and depth of His words in John 13 through 17 show us that like all teachers, His concern was whether His pupils were ready for graduation. He gave them final instructions and then handed them over to the Holy Spirit, who would take them into the future. He ended the supper by praying for Himself, His disciples, and all believers (John 17).

Then He went on to fulfill God’s plan for His own life.


When I look back over my life, the lessons I tried to teach my children, the plans I’ve tried to fulfill, whether career or ministry-wise, and every decision I’ve made—I realize after I’ve done my best; what happens next often isn’t up to me. Daily, I must choose to hand the reins to God, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. I believe that, above all else, this was what Jesus tried so hard to instill in His disciples. It’s a lesson He ultimately modeled by going to the Garden of Gethsemane, praying, and then yielding to His Father’s will. It’s a lesson I'm still learning to put into practice.

As we enter the final Holy days before celebrating Resurrection Sunday, what problem are you wrestling with that you simply need to hand over to the Lord and instead take up your cross and follow Him?

Are you willing to let Him lead—no matter where it takes you?

Friday, May 11, 2018

God’s Solution For Worrying Mothers


Motherhood is one of the toughest challenges women face, whether we're raising a gentle soul or a tantrum-throwing type A personality. Part of the challenge of motherhood is worry.
Jesus cautioned His followers not to worry about tomorrow because today has worry enough, but mothers spend many sleepless nights worrying about their children, whether they’re safe, and what their future will be. Add to this the many stages a child goes through, and you find yourself wondering why God thought you were up to the task of motherhood.

Speak God’s Truth
In 1 Samuel 1:10-18, we see Hannah pouring out her heart to God. Her biggest desire was to have a child. We see no emotion in Abraham in Genesis 22 when he takes Isaac up onto the mountain to sacrifice him as God commanded. However, in Genesis 22:5 we get a glimpse into Abraham’s thinking when he tells his servants they will be back. So whatever emotion he felt, he countered it with the truth God had spoken to him in Genesis 17 when He promised to make Abraham a father of many nations, establishing a covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
Maybe that’s where the answer to the challenges of motherhood lies. Instead of worrying, the best thing we can do for our children and ourselves is speak God’s truth over them and to them.
How do we do this? It starts with being saturated in God’s Word and staying on our knees in prayer. The best guidance we’ll get is while being in tune with God’s directives.
His Promise
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is one of the best templates for teaching our children about God. If God is truly everything to us, then it’s not difficult to incorporate that love into our daily lives when sitting, walking by the way, lying down, or when we get up.
If we don’t impress anything else upon our children, God's love is most important. It will undergird them in all of life’s challenges and decisions. Is this a guarantee that their life will turn out perfect—that no harm will ever come to them?
No. God doesn’t promise that.
He only promises to walk with us through life’s trials. And absolutely nothing is averted or solved by worrying. Even when the worst happens, if we keep our eyes fixed on eternity and the promise that one day there will be no more suffering, no more pain, no more tears (Revelation 21), then no matter what comes our way on this earth, God will provide a way to get through it.
Cover your children in prayer. Psalm 139:13-16 tells us that God knew them before they were even knit together in your womb. As much as we love our children, He loves them even more. What a comforting thought to deflate worry when it attacks!
His Love Sustains 
This year, as I mark my second Mother’s Day after my daughter’s passing, God’s love sustains me. The Biblical promises I have stored in my heart and soul for decades, some of which my mother instilled in me early in life, will help carry me through Mother's Day and again later in the week on Lindsay's birthday. His love will sustain you on tough days, also.
What difficulty are you facing with your children? Do you have a Bible verse or passage that gives you comfort and strength as you walk through this trial? Join the conversation below and be an encouragement to other mothers.
If you have a prayer request, please leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I've love to pray for you!

Have a blessed Mother's Day.
In Christ,

Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Jesus' Destiny, The Empty Tomb, and Our Free Will

“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 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. Maybe it’s because I feel the renewing of my spirit as I celebrate Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, much like nature when it's 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.

If you've chosen to be a Christian, then God has predestined you 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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

God Speaks Even In Silence

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen… Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:37-40

Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem before the Passover brought cheers from the crowd. Their response infuriated the Pharisees. Given all the evidence of Jesus being the Messiah, it’s hard to fathom that religious leaders would rebuke him. Yet, there it was. And the Pharisees carried their hatred all the way to Golgotha. 

Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees sends chills up my spine. Imagine stones crying out about our Savior. This shows the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. He can’t not speak about Christ! And if He can’t do it through a person, He’ll find another way. 
I became even more aware of that within the last month as we celebrated the life of one of the most impactful pastors that our country, and possibly the world, has ever seen. Reverend Billy Graham passed away in February at the age of 99. I respected and loved Billy Graham. I grew up watching his crusades in the 1970s, and they had a huge impact on me. 
As many other folks did after Graham’s death, I watched videos of his life, including one about his crusades to London, England. In 1954, at his first big international crusade, over 2 million people attended with 40,000 professions of faith. He returned in 1955 and again in 1966.

As stadiums packed out for the crusades, the British media began writing scathing reviews of his ministry. They claimed Billy Graham whipped his audiences into an emotional frenzy with the playing of Just As I Am for the altar call. They credited that with the mass number of conversions—not a genuine call of Christ.

So in 1966, when Billy Graham returned to England and held services at Earl Gray’s Court and Wembly Stadium, he ended the services differently. Cliff Barrows, Graham’s music director, recounted the story here:

That first night at Earl’s Court, Billy preached his heart out. There was a real sense of the presence of God. When he finished he said, “We are not going to have any music tonight. There’ll be no singing. But if the Spirit of God is speaking to your heart, then right where you are, just stand in your place, and make your way out to the aisle. Come down to the center through the side aisles and stand here in front of the platform.” He stood back and said, “Now, you come.”

For about fifteen seconds nobody moved. And that’s a long time. Then all of a sudden a seat squeaked, and then another, and another. Then hundreds of people began to stand. They walked to the aisle, shuffled down the long wooden floor that had been put down to cover the turf, and stood at the front.

We went thirty nights without a single note of the hymn, “Just as I Am,” which has been the signature tune of our Crusades through the years. We had never done that before.

When the reporters began to write about the invitation at Earl’s Court, they said that all they heard was a shuffling of feet on the floor. “Bring back ‘Just as I Am!’ The silence is killing us!” they wrote.
I’m pretty sure the reporters didn’t realize what an amazing testimony they were giving—not for Graham but for Christ. 
“The silence is killing us”—or as Jesus put it, “Even the stones will cry out.” Even in the silence, the Holy Spirit was speaking. The Pharisees couldn’t silence the Holy Spirit, and the reporters couldn’t either.

Hearing this story of Graham’s crusade confirmed for me that—even in what we perceive as our weak, human attempts to share the gospel—the Holy Spirit shines through our words, and often in our silence.  

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

I’ll take it even one step further. Our testimony is more than what we tell people about our salvation experience. It’s also lived out in our actions. That’s when God’s spirit is most evident.

And then when we do speak, people will listen.

Have you ever felt inadequate when telling people about Christ? Perhaps you have a Bible verse that’s encouraged you when you felt weak. I’d love for you to share in the comments below.

If you need prayer today, please feel free to leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you!
God Bless,
Laura
©Laura Hodges Poole
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com.