Tuesday, October 4, 2022

My Heavenly Conversation With Papa

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:1-2 ESV 

“Where do you believe heaven is?” my 86-year-old father asked.

Some of the most spiritual and philosophical conversations I’ve had in my life have been with Papa. This was no different. Our conversations are often about heaven, and not just because of his age. As we grow closer to Christ, our longing to be with him increases. I truly believe that we reach the point where our souls outlive this broken down world.

Much can be gained by being in the presence of an elderly person who chooses to spend his precious time learning all he can about God and eternity. Our society often looks upon the elderly in a sad way, especially those infirmed. But maybe, just maybe, God reveals things not only to those closest to him, but those closest to heaven. While my father’s earthly vision is almost gone, his eternal vision sharpens daily.

I shared with Papa that God who created the earth, the solar system, the vast innumerable galaxies, and all the wonders we haven’t seen and can’t grasp, surely can create our eternal home any place he chooses. Heaven could be a planet much like Earth was intended to be before sin entered our finite little world.

After all, the Bible says in Isaiah 40:22 that “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

Papa said he’d been thinking the same thing. We rejoiced that wherever heaven is, we'll both be in that glorious place one day, whole and untroubled. 

Our discussion turned to angels. He wondered if an angel escorts you to heaven when you die. After all, he couldn’t find Mercury or any other planet, if he had to.

Well, why not? It’s plausible we would get a heavenly escort on the most important day of our lives. Jesus shared an account of an angel escorting a beggar to heaven in Christ’s only parable believed to be a real-life event in Luke 16:19-31.

No matter how we get to heaven, it’ll be the most exciting journey we’ve ever experienced!

Even more exciting is knowing that God has an infinite array of choices for eternity unhindered by our finite thinking. At the same time, he instills a desire in our soul for all things eternal. He wants us to question and wonder.

God also chose my godly father. I cherish every conversation and insight this wise, godly man shares with me.

I challenge you to slow down and do the same with the elders in your family. Far from a waste of time, it’ll be time well spent. Possibly the best time ever.

Have you been blessed by a conversation with a wise elder or someone else you cherish? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below, along with any prayer requests you may have. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Lent – A Lifestyle, Not A Season

My teenage son decided a few years ago to give up pizza for Lent. My first thought was ugh, not pizza!

I was also amazed and proud that he would give up something he loved so much. So I suffered sacrificed with the rest of the family through forty days with no pizza. The experience is amusing now. At the time, I grudgingly embraced it as a learning experience for my son.

Yet, in our quest as Christians to observe spiritual holy days and seasons, do we miss the mark with our sacrifices for Christ—as if we can really give up anything for Him? Lent is supposed to be about reflection and self-denial to commemorate Christ’s sacrifice as we approach Easter. The intention is to spend more time in Scripture and prayer with God in place of the item we have sacrificed.

But what if we were to embrace the idea that Lent is a lifestyle for Christians instead of a season? Not self-denial in the pre-Protestant manner. We all need downtime and recreation. Rather, give up the things that mindlessly occupy our time or are harmful to our spirits—and replace them with Christ-honoring activities so that we may become more Christ-like.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

We put off our old self when we became Christians. To be made new in our attitudes and put on a new self, created to be like God, takes conscious effort. Lent offers a new beginning in this regard, a chance to reflect on old ways and create new spiritual habits.

… the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

The peace we yearn for, the new beginning—like spring after a long, cold winter—comes when we allow ourselves to be governed by the Spirit of God. As Lent ends and we approach Easter, fellowship with the Spirit of peace in a way you never have before. Then challenge yourself to embrace the idea of Lent as a lifestyle—a constant renewing in the midst of life’s challenges. The reassurance of God’s peace and our spiritual growth is worth any sacrifice we’ll make.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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