Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Day After

Simeon took him [baby Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:28-32 NIV
If your living room looked like mine yesterday, torn Christmas paper, bows, and bags were strewn around in the aftermath of opening presents. Cinnamon rolls and coffee had been consumed and the preparation for Christmas dinner begun. My daughter joined us from North Carolina, which added to the laughter and festivities of the day. 
After Jesus’ birth, not much is recorded in the Gospels about his life until his adult ministry. One of the few stories is about his family’s trip to Jerusalem for purification rites, which included a sacrifice at the temple, after Jesus’ birth and circumcism. Here they encounter the elderly man Simeon. His beautiful prayer is recorded in Luke.
Now that we have celebrated the Messiah’s birth, what is the condition of our hearts? Do we see our salvation anew? In the New Year, will our light shine for all the world to see?
Or do we merely have a house filled with opened gifts, leftover food, and the aftermath of festivities? 
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Luke 2:33
Oh Lord, may our hearts marvel today and every day at your greatest present ever to mankind—your Son Jesus. Help us to keep our focus on shining His light into the world as we strive to die to self and the materialism surrounding us. May your name always be on our lips and in our hearts as we go into the New Year. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

© Laura Hodges Poole
Photo courtesy of free clip art

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bless All The Dear Children

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
In this verse, Jesus teaches his disciples about a child’s worth. Even in the Middle East today, we see that women and children are of lesser value in the eyes of men. Yet, Jesus admonished his disciples to bring the children to him. He elevated children publically to their rightful place of value. Children illustrate the innocence and rebirth we experienced when we became followers of Christ. 
Do you think Jesus grieves when we grieve? He did during his life on this earth. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” Jesus knew he would raise his dear friend Lazarus from death, yet he felt grief and separation in that moment.
Christmas is certainly not the same this year in our world of violence and despair. I encourage you not to let it overtake you. Cling to the Savior and His promise to return one day to establish His perfect Kingdom—one without violence, hunger, broken homes, death, or despair. Look up into the dark, starry sky and think about the light that entered your heart when you accepted Him as savior. Celebrate the innocence of the baby Jesus as we remember those He gathered into his arms last Friday. Let us continue to pray for the families of these precious children and the six teachers who lost their lives last Friday in Newtown, CT. I encourage you also to pray for the killer’s family as they grieve. 
Sandy Hook Elementary School victims
Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me I pray!
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.
If you’re grieving this Christmas, I’d love to pray for you. Please contact me via e-mail or leave a prayer request in the comments below so others can pray, as well. 
One activity spreading through social media right now is Ann Curry’s 26 Acts of Kindness in remembrance of those killed. Not only is it a great way to help combat personal depression and hopelessness so many feel right now, it’s a tangible way to get involved and spread Christ’s love while honoring those who died. Perhaps you’d consider sending a Christmas card to Sgt. Jesse McCart who we have been praying for since he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan during the summer and lost part of both legs. His contact information is listed on a separate page above.
May God bless you and your family in a special way.  
Merry Christmas,
© Laura Hodges Poole

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God, Guns, and Mental Illness

As often occurs after a mass murder, statements about God, guns, and mental illness have abounded in the media and in society since last Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Where was God on Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut? 
Right where He’s always been—comforting, loving, and grieving with us and for us. That never will change. 
So how could a loving God allow twenty kindergarteners to be killed?
The theological answer is that we live in a fallen world with all its human frailties, sin, and the consequences of sin. Good people die tragically and sometimes this includes children. Evil will be present until Jesus returns. 
But to explore the issue of God’s presence in this tragedy further, we have to also look at ourselves. In this increasingly secular progressive society we live in, certain forces have tried to push God out of every arena. And these same forces are alive within the church to water down sin and its consequences. I watched a particular thread about hell unfold on Facebook one day, and a “professing” Christian made the comment, “My God’s not cruel. Sorry yours is.” 
Wow! It’s called justice. Read your Bible. 
Or as C.S. Lewis put it:
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "THY will be done." All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened. 
And in a society where a large percentage of people claim belief in God, many fail to have any Biblical basis for what this means. How else can you explain the same people failing to understand that they were made in God’s image, not vice versa? God shouldn’t be different things to different people. He’s the One True God, consistent in His actions since day one. Read the Bible, and you’ll find this is so.
God has been pushed out of the school system. While they strive to teach right and wrong (and I don’t know how you do this apart from calling sin what it is), they aren’t allowed to teach eternal consequences, only the mentality of “if you get caught, X will happen.” It’s not a far stretch to see that a gunman’s plan of taking down as many people as he can in the most horrific manner he can before ending his life reflects no thought of possible judgment before God. The killer has accomplished his goal of ensuring his name goes down in history. He gets all the glory, right?
I think of all the commentaries I’ve heard over the past few days, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee put it best:
“We ask why there’s violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability. That we’re not just going to have to be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that. Maybe we ought to let (God) in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”
There’s more to the story. Our kids are inundated with movies that depict gratuitous violence and video games where people are killed with no feeling or consequences. This is a generation who has grown up on movies like John Q, where threatening others to serve your own agenda produces happy endings. And we dare ask why mass shootings happen?
American society continues to push God out. You only have to look at Christmas to see this is so. The secular progressives want to strip Christmas of any spirituality. They have a lot of nerve celebrating Jesus’ birthday to begin with, but then they want to tell everybody else to toss Jesus out the window, too. 
Redefine Him, marginalize Him, and castigate Him. Then ask where He is. 
Yeah, that’ll work. 
We are failing as a nation. Those who point the finger at God and ask why He allowed this to happen are hopelessly misguided. He set up the perfect world and gave us free choice. We’re the ones who’ve screwed it up. This world has grieved God’s heart from the moment He had to put us out of the Garden of Eden. God’s heart breaks every time human carnage happens on this earth. The Bible states He is a patient God (2 Peter 3:9), not wanting anyone to be lost, but this patience has an ending. It’s called Judgment Day. 
If you want to point a finger, it must turn inward on society and not above to our Lord. And you can’t simultaneously hold the belief there is no God and then blame Him when tragedy happens. 
Another issue exists—mental illness. 
While some shootings occur as a result of a disgruntled individual, like the shooting at Birmingham, AL, St. Vincent’s Hospital on Friday, mass murderers are more complex. Aside from what I’ve discussed above, these individuals are often deeply disturbed and suffering from some form of mental illness. In an article written by Liza Long, she shares her fear about the mental illness her teenage son has. (I’ve purposely not given the title of the article since it includes the Newtown killer’s name.) 
What struck me about Ms. Long’s nightmare is her unwillingness to excuse her son’s behavior. Even when her own life is endangered, she maintains an unwavering belief that he be held accountable for his actions. 
Furthermore, within the complex discussion about mental illness is the reality that a diagnosis is not a definitive precursor to mass killings. When my mentally ill sister would become delusional, psychotic, or severely depressed, she hurt herself. Some mass murders don’t show outward signs of mental illness beforehand. Sure, after the fact, family and friends have 20/20 hindsight that provides some clues to an illness. But a precursor to killing? Not always. 
I remember during the early 1990s living in Gainesville, FL, when a serial killer struck and butchered six students. The first arrest made in the case was a mentally ill young man who had stopped taking his psychotropic medication. When he was led into court in shackles, the cameras captured his dazed, deranged look. He fit the profile of the killer in everybody’s mind. Fortunately, DNA exonerated this innocent man.
Our mental health system is broken, and this has to be part of the discussion. But we must tread cautiously in doing so. 
Then there’s the elephant in the room. Gun control.  
On Friday, while this carnage happened in our country, China experienced a similar attack. However, the perpetrator used a knife. Twenty-two school children were critically wounded by the time he was stopped. Obviously, while tightening gun laws may reduce the overall number of fatalities, it isn’t going to stop mass murders from happening. 
So what’s the answer to the gun debate?
The Sandy Hook school principal lunged at the attacker, but what weapon did she have to stop the killer or protect herself? Her bare hands. That’s sad. 
I heard the president of the American Federation of Teachers speak on the television Sunday. The gist of her remarks (expressed in her best kumbaya voice) was school is a safe sanctuary of learning. Allowing more guns in (by administrators arming themselves) would jeopardize this.
We have armed resource officers in many schools in the South. Perhaps other regions of the country have them, as well. A couple of years ago, an armed student from another school managed to get inside the high school my son attends. The school went on lockdown while the resource officer went after the intruder. When the student saw the officer, he fled. The officer chased and captured him. The officer didn’t have to shoot him, but the kid knew he would. The student was there to settle a score over a girl, not to commit a mass murder, but imagine if he’d encountered the unarmed female principal instead of the armed resource officer. You have to wonder if the outcome would have been different. 
In addition to having a resource officer armed with a gun and taser, my son’s high school has two security officers on constant patrol, security cameras whose feed goes directly into the county sheriff’s office, and many other security measures in place. Will this ensure complete safety for my child? No, but consider this. The gunman at Sandy Hook only stopped killing when the first responders were running down the hall toward the classroom he was in. At that point he took his life
The problem of mass murders and public shootings is complex, one that has developed over time. The solution is no doubt multi-faceted, but we can’t afford to take the same amount of time to find it. Nor can it be the single-minded “my way or no way” mentality permeating our society. If we don’t put aside the divisiveness in this country and work together to find solutions, these murders will continue to escalate.
© Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Coping With Loss And The Holidays Part III

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Today, I'm thrilled to have guest blogger Kristin Johnson share the story of her father and son and how, with God's strength, we can endure all things. Welcome Kristin!  
With God all things are possible. He will never put anything in front of us we cannot endure. It was August 2008, and my dad was having an outpatient procedure done to remove a tumor in his jaw. My husband Chris, myself, and our three children were heading to North Carolina for one last summer vacation before school started. We decided to stop by the Charlotte Medical Center to check on my dad on the way. Mom had expressed some concerns because dad had to be taken back into the operating room due to some complications and he wasn't waking up. 
To make a very long story short, my dad did not make it through this and died on August 2nd, 2008. We were all in shock, but my dad had come to visit me the weekend before he died. He told me he was a little scared but knew God would take care of Him. I felt peace and knew I needed to be strong for my family.
We were just getting through with the shock of my dad's death, when our 3-year-old son Samuel had a tricycle accident at my mom's house. We had been staying with her since my dad died so she wouldn’t be alone. Samuel had trouble walking for about two weeks, which seemed odd since the accident wasn't that bad. He began bruising for no reason and spiking high fevers. We took him to the doctor, and they ran some tests which determined Samuel had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Samuel was diagnosed of September 4th, 2008, only one month after my dad died.
Okay, God, you promised to never put anything in front of us we cannot handle, right?
This felt like more than we could handle. We prayed God would guide the doctors involved with Samuel's care and that he would sustain us through this trial. I prayed to God, begging it could be me and not Samuel. He was so young and had so much life! God did sustain us, and yes, at times it seemed life could never be the same. The challenge was overwhelming, but God helped us see His mercy and kindness through Samuel's walk with cancer. 
We were so blessed with excellent doctors, family, and friends who helped us through Samuel's journey. Katelyn and Paul, Samuel's older sister and brother were a huge support for Samuel and continue to be there for their little brother. Also my mom helped me take care of Samuel, which helped her get through the loss of my dad. She was helping us and that made her feel good. God is good all the time. J  
Samuel completed his leukemia treatment and is all better. He got his chemo port out Christmas break 2011! 
Not all stories like this end as well as ours has, but I know God never left our side through my dad's death or Samuel's cancer, and for that I am eternally grateful. I pray for those who suffer during the holidays and hope they will feel God's power and strength. May God bless each of you. 
~Kristin B. Johnson 

“I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength.” Philippians 4:13

Our prayer list and Sgt. Jesse McCart’s updates are above. Christmas is a difficult time for folks suffering with grief and chronic illness. Would you take a moment to lift them up in prayer and consider sending a card to Jesse and his wife? Their contact info is on his page, as well. 
Are you grieving this Christmas? I’d love to pray for you. Please leave a comment or email me confidential requests.
© Laura Hodges Poole

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why I Wouldn't Attend Writers' Conferences

As a novice writer, it’s what you don’t know that’ll hurt you. It’s kind of like when my husband or son aren’t listening to me while I’m talking, and suddenly they perk up and say, “What?” My eyes narrow and I ask, “What part didn’t you hear?” 
The same with writing. There’s so much to learn about the publishing world. All writers experience hard knocks as they maneuver this learning curve. As I mentor or have discussions with fellow writers, similarities emerge about their journeys. Beginners are often resistant to certain stepping stones that will further their careers.
Fear of the unknown. 
One avoidance in particular stands out—writers’ conferences. 
Within this resistance, specific reasons are given for not attending. Again, nothing new under the sun. I say this because they were also my reasons. 
I can’t afford to attend. This is a valid reason. I remember when scraping together $100 for a local day conference was difficult for me. I couldn’t justify spending money that could be used elsewhere in the family budget. Even so, it also served as a mental crutch to avoid attending.
Practical solutions:
·       Get an envelope and every week put a few dollars in it. Add to it when you receive an unexpected windfall like birthday money or a work bonus. Tuck the envelope away in your desk and don’t touch it, no matter what. Well, unless the power company is threatening to turn off your power.

·       Christmas is three weeks away. My family complains they don’t know what to get me. They say I never want anything and whatever I need, I can buy. If you’re asked what you want, don’t be shy. Speak up and say, “You know, I’d like to attend a writers’ conference in 2013, but I need a few sponsors to pay the fee. A donation of any size would be appreciated.” Then, make sure the gift is tucked away in the “conference” envelope and not used to buy socks for your kids. J 

·       Garage sales are a great way to raise money. This is found money, not paycheck money designated for bills. Ask your spouse if a percentage of the profit could be set aside for your “writing fund.”  

·       Look for free or inexpensive writing workshops. The first writing function I attended was a free workshop hosted by a local writing group at the library. Christian author Lynette Eason was the featured speaker. We became friends through that workshop and subsequent e-mails. She was one of my first mentors. I learned a great deal from her about writing and the industry.
I’m an introvert. Another valid reason that’s also a mental crutch. Your thoughts may sound something like this: “I’d die if an agent/editor/published writer speaks to me. I won’t know what to say. I’ll probably babble something incoherent and blow any chance of getting a contract.” 
I’m not sure if anyone has ever fainted in front of an agent or editor. If they have, I’m sure everyone involved survived. And, look at it like this. You’ll make a lasting impression. J Yes, you’ll probably babble. I’ve done it and survived. 
Seriously, very few writers are more introverted than I am. I prefer communicating through my keyboard, and it’s not just a case of being shy. God wires introverts to thrive in solitude, whereas extroverts get their energy from crowds of people. Conferences can be exhausting for both types. 
Practical solutions:
·        If it is your first conference, your goal could be to simply learn and network among other writers. Unless you have a polished, complete manuscript, don’t plan to pitch to an agent or editor. However, if you do have a book manuscript in progress, have a basic premise memorized (a pitch) in case you find yourself at a dining table or standing next to an agent or editor and they ask about your work. If you have a short pitch memorized, you have some hope of coherent words coming out of your mouth. I promise as you mingle with writing industry folks, you’ll get more comfortable.  

·        If you’re attending a local one or two-day conference, use your break time to get away. Resist the urge to always network during this time. It’s called a break for a reason. For overnight conferences, I’ve used my lunch break to capnap to rejuvenate for the afternoon/evening sessions. Solitude is a must for an introvert or you’ll burn out. The last conference I attended, I skipped a session on teen writing because it’s not my area of interest. Instead, I hung out in my hotel room and worked on my current manuscript until the next class. Pacing myself enabled me to handle the rigors of the 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. day.
My work isn’t good enough yet. Okay, I’ve used this excuse myself. What if someone asks if I’m published? No big deal. There will always be writers ahead of and behind you on the writing path. If you truly feel your writing hasn’t reached the publishable stage, the education you get in conference classes is invaluable to honing your skills. 
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
There are other ways to get published. Sure, many paths to publication exist. But remember how I started this post? It’s what you don’t know that increases that time frame. Most published writers will tell you that attending conferences to network, gain writing education, and build friendships with other writers will cut your time tremendously to becoming published. 
However, don’t network solely for the sake of networking. These are people you’ll build friendships with and receive support from on your writing journey. Christian writing is a ministry. A support system is imperative. You have “someone” with a vested interest in your failure.
I’m going to attend the Writers Advance! Boot Camp at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, NC, February 1-3, 2013. My dream is to attend American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) national conference held in Indianapolis next September. I’m working toward making that a reality.
So what are you waiting for? I want to hear about your plans to attend a writers’ conference in 2013. If you’ve attended a conference, what did you learn from the experience that you didn’t expect? 
© Laura Hodges Poole
Photo courtesy of free clip art

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Coping With Loss And The Holidays Part II

Today, I'm happy to introduce a guest blogger, my dear friend Betty McCarty, who will share about her son Brian’s death and how God carried her through the grief. This is the second part of a three-part series which ran in 2011. 
“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3
I’m a mother of three—my firstborn, Brian, and two daughters, Shanna & Sarah. 
June 10, 2007, was a beautiful Lord’s Day. We had been home about two hours from church services, when one or both of the girls said something about state troopers pulling up on the road next to our house. I looked and saw three Florida Highway Patrol cars and one unmarked police car. I went outside to see why they were there. I knew something wasn’t right. 
One of the officers called out as he walked toward our home, “Are you Brian Gillen’s mother?”
I said, “Yes. Is he ok?” 
The officer shook his head no. I then learned that my 24-year-old son had been killed in a motorcycle/car accident. He was on the motorcycle. A car had pulled out in front of him. They tried to make it sound as if it were his fault because he was going too fast. Some of our family and friends were angry at the girl who’d pulled out in front of him. I have learned you don’t have to “blame” anyone. Sometimes things just happen. 
Soon afterwards, I made a call to a member of the church I attended. I also called friends from the two previous churches where I’d been a member before. I asked them all to pray for us. In the midst of the grief and turmoil, I knew we would need God’s help to get through this. I will never understand people turning their back on God when they need him the most. 
God answered the prayers. I can’t tell you that getting through the grief process has been easy, but I can tell you that God has helped make it more bearable.
Brian was a brother my two daughters looked up to, even more after their father died 4½ years earlier of a massive heart attack. Brian was a father, as well, to my beautiful little granddaughter Elizabeth. She is a gift from God. She is Brian with us. We all miss Brian.
One day I thought – what’s wrong with me? I haven’t cried that much. I’m doing too well. Please understand it is not because I haven’t grieved my son’s death. I have cried and missed him so much. It’s because my God carried us through! 
Sometimes, we tend to miss those we’ve lost more around the holidays. Their loss makes us sad.  My suggestion is this – pray. Prayer is what got me through the endless hours of grief. Also, find someone you can comfort. Helping someone else in need tends to get our minds off our own problems. Seeing Elizabeth at Christmas eases my holiday grief, as well, and my girls help me stay strong.
Remember, tell those you love that you love them every single chance you get. I’m thankful that just two days prior to Brian’s death, I told him I loved him. That memory brings me much comfort.
Have you ever wondered how Mary must have felt when she saw Jesus upon the cross? As a mother who has loved a son and lost him, I can assure you the pain was enormous but so was God’s grace and mercy in comforting her.
 ~Betty McCarty

Are you grieving a loss this Christmas? I’d love to pray for you. Please leave a comment or email me confidential requests. Our prayer list and Sgt. Jesse McCart’s updates are above. The holiday season is a difficult time for folks suffering with grief and chronic illness. Would you take a moment to lift them up in prayer and consider sending a card to Jesse and his wife? Their contact info is on his page, as well.

Emily, the 12-year-old young lady with bone cancer we've been praying for, goes in for a CT scan on her lungs tomorrow at 11:00 and then a left leg bone X-ray at 1:00, to check for bone growth and to ensure she is still tumor free. If the tests are clear, she'll go another three months before rechecking. She is walking with a cane now, so the family is thankful for this! Please lift up this young lady and her family as they go through these tests tomorrow. Thank you. 
© Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Coping With Loss And The Holidays Part I

Today, I'm happy to introduce a guest blogger, my sister Teresa Alfieri. Her story is the first of a three-part series on coping with loss of a loved one and the holidays that I shared during the 2011 holiday season. Grief during the holidays overwhelms everyone at some point, so I decided to re-run the series this year. I hope you will be blessed by these messages.
Welcome Teresa and thank you for sharing from your heart! 
Christmas came four months after my husband Sal died. I believe I was so thankful he was no longer in pain that I did not begin to process his death until then. Christmas was his favorite time of year and those who knew him, knew he was very sentimental, emotional, and had a big heart. He was often referred to as a “Big Teddy Bear.” Sal loved surprises and was like a child on Christmas morning anxious to open the presents. 
This is why the grief was so overwhelming that first Christmas. I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t escape from the pain that had a grip on my heart. I decided one night during the week before Christmas that I would get in my car and just drive away. Then, rational thinking stepped in, and I amended the plan to drive 40 minutes away to O’leno State Park and visit the place Sal and I had enjoyed so many times in the past. 
When I arrived at the park, I sat in my car for a long time, fearful to go by myself into the woods, but more fearful of what would happen to my state of mind if I did not. I wrestled with the fear and then set off to hike. I savored happy memories on this first of many trips to the woods. My brain stopped racing with the sadness, and I felt rejuvenated when I was through. The pain did not go away, but I began to work through it. I became angry any time I saw an elderly couple holding hands and the realization would come to me again—I would never grow old with this “Big Teddy Bear” of a man. All the dreams we had shared had been wiped away when he was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. 
Throughout my life, I’ve had a strong faith, knowing that God was with me. There were times I would sit by the water in the woods having serious conversations with Him, asking the same questions over and over. “Why?” “Why does a loving God allow any human to suffer the pain that Sal did?” I had very profound thoughts during that time that scared me; thoughts about the life after. I believe it was part of the healing process and growing in my faith. 
Music was another part my healing. I became familiar with YouTube and the availability of Christian Contemporary music. Casting Crowns “Praise You In This Storm” became my daily mantra.
Where was my family during this time? They were right there trying to console me. I appreciated their love and concern. But the pain was too great to share with them. I needed my God, the God who is so good to me, to walk me through it, sometimes holding my hand, sometimes carrying me in His arms.
Now, several years later, the pain has become less, perhaps more tolerable. When the Christmas season arrives with all its sights, sounds, and smells, I may always have those feelings of loss. But now they do not consume me. My faith continues to grow stronger. I know God is in the air I breathe, not just available during loss or crisis, but walking with me, daily.
My advice to others grieving during this Christmas season is to find some sort of activity you enjoy and take God with you on your journey. Take it from someone who has been there—He helped me walk through the pain!
~Teresa Lynn Alfieri
“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.” Psalm 107:28-29
Praise Report:
Courtney’s MRI last week was even better than the ones she had in September and July, according to her oncologist. Please continue to lift her up in prayer as she battles cancer. This is a note from her Caring Bridge site:
We just wanted to thank everyone for praying for Courtney especially on Wednesday. God answered our prayers once again. Dr. Peters was very happy over how her MRI looked and again said that the cavity where the tumor was has very defined borders, and a small contrasted area they saw below the cavity, appeared smaller than what they saw on the last MRI. They are leaning toward believing that the area is scar tissue from the previous radiation. Dr. Peters was thrilled to see Courtney looking so well.
We have so much to be thankful for and so appreciate once again the answered prayers. He truly does have Courtney in the palm of His hands! Our next MRI at Duke will be in late January. We are looking forward to going through the holidays with a positive report behind us and being able to relax a bit and enjoy Addison [Courtney’s 18-month-old daughter] this year at Christmas. She loves looking at the Christmas trees and decorations and we know she will enjoy opening presents and getting new toys.
I don’t have anything to add to those inspiring words from Courtney’s family! The permanent prayer list is above. Would you take a moment to say a prayer for those listed? The holidays are a tough time for families with loved ones battling chronic disease. 
Cassie and Jesse

Also, Sgt. Jesse McCart continues rehab as you can see from the photo on the right. As I get updates, they will be posted on his page above.

God bless,
© Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks


“Rejoice in the Lord always…Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4, 6-7

What a powerful promise! The peace of God guards my heart and mind. Is there a better reason to give thanks this year?

Years ago, when my husband and I started out as newlyweds, we pinched pennies and barely scraped by from paycheck to paycheck. We had a little black-and-white TV that picked up random channels through its rabbit ear antenna. Meals were often scant and gas for the car a luxury.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

Despite the fact that thirty years of hard work and God’s blessings lifted us from that economic situation, I never forget the tough times. Like Paul, I learned the secret of being content despite my circumstances. It is a contentment born from dwelling in thanksgiving with my heavenly Father.

This year, as I review my reasons to be thankful, they may be similar to yours—family, shelter, food, employment, good health, and ministry. My list hasn’t always included all these things, nor am I guaranteed it will be the same next year.

But do you know what I’m most thankful for?

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31b-32, 35-39

I’m most thankful that nothing can separate me from the love of my Lord and Savior.

Dear God, we come before your throne with grateful hearts, overflowing with the love you’ve shown us through your Son. Despite the hardships we’ve encountered this year, thank you for the many blessings you’ve given us. Thank you for always being accessible and consistent in your love. Thank you most of all for the salvation you’ve provided through Jesus. In His name we pray. Amen.

For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
I'll be a witness in the silences
When words are not enough
With every breath I take
I will give thanks to God above

If you have a prayer request, please leave it in the comment section or email me privately confidential requests. Also, if you'd like to share a praise report or something you're thankful for, I'd love to hear it!

Courtney, a young mother battling a cancerous brain tumor, will have her two-month follow-up MRI today to check the effectiveness of treatment. Her last two MRIs have been clear. Please lift her up in prayer as she travels to Duke, has the procedure, and then meets with the oncologist for results. She is also having a side effect to the chemo that has successfully treated her cancer up to this point. Pray that her body will fight this so she can continue on the treatment.

The permanent prayer list and updates on Sgt. Jesse McCart are listed above. If you’re interested in sending him or another injured soldier a card, the addresses are also listed on his page. The holidays are difficult times for people chronically ill or who’ve been seriously injured. They greatly appreciate any mail received.

Happy Thanksgiving!


©Laura Hodges Poole

Photo courtesy of free clip art

Monday, November 19, 2012

Count the Costs

Count the Costs

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?... So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:28, 31, 33 (NKJV)

Jesus is pretty clear in this passage about what it takes to follow Him. He doesn’t sugarcoat the consequences of being His disciple. Since Jesus’ resurrection, Christians have been persecuted and martyred worldwide. In modern America, we’ve erroneously embraced the idea that we’re immune to such persecution. This has changed within the last few years. Christians are a minority, and our beliefs are ridiculed as old fashioned and intolerant. Though expected to show tolerance to groups who hold different belief systems, we’re not shown the same tolerance.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, God’s nature is consistent throughout the Bible and history. He established the definition of marriage between one woman and one man in Genesis 2:24 and reaffirmed in the New Testament in Matthew 19:4-6. God established the definition of murder in Genesis 9:6 and the consequences therein. Yet marriage is being threatened in this country while we wink at the legal murder of 3,000 babies a day.

It doesn’t stop there. Collateral damage exists in the form of defining a viable baby. Do you realize most states have an age of viability for pre-term babies they will extend “extraordinary medical care?” You might be surprised how many weeks this is and which politicians have pushed such bills. 

The legal right to an abortion is not really about protecting women's choice, folks. The women seeking abortions are afforded choice but not the mothers who fight for the life of their pre-term live babies.

These are examples of social issues impacting society, the church, and our future as a nation, as well as slow erosion within the body of Christ supporting basic Biblical principles.

The day after the U.S. Presidential election, as I spent time in prayer, God spoke to my heart about a new blog. He gave me the title, “Count The Costs.” I logged onto Google blogger to register it and the URL was available. The blog’s mission will be to highlight and discuss social issues and current events within the framework of Christianity.

I opened this post with Jesus’ words. As Christians, we must count the costs of how we live, what we model for the world, and the battles we choose to wage. No matter how involved you are (or aren’t), the costs continue to mount for Christians and society.

Please consider stopping by and checking out Count The Costs next Monday, November 26, as we go live. We’ll begin with a two-part series, “The Consequences of Idols in the Church,” by Mike Gonzalez, Senior Pastor of Columbia World Outreach Church in South Carolina. If you are inspired by what you read, please consider becoming a follower or email subscriber. I look forward to hearing your feedback.

A Word of Encouragement will remain the same with weekly prayer posts and occasional writing tips/encouragement intermixed with fun, lighthearted posts like Lessons From Mayberry and Lost? Not Me! Or the time I shared about the death of a childhood friend in The Two Michaels

Meanwhile, I’ll return on Wednesday with a Thanksgiving prayer post. If you have any prayer requests you’d like me to share, please email those to me.

God bless,

© Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Now What? - 3 Ways to Persevere

Water of Life

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.” Revelation 22:1-3

I’ve heard much despair from folks over the last week about America’s moral, economic, and spiritual condition. What do we do in the face of such despair? Give up?

Certainly not! This country was founded on the premise of perseverance.

So what does perseverance mean to Christians as we move forward?

“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Genesis 6:22

Keep building. Noah built the ark while warning those around him of their impending doom. Much like today, folks didn’t want to hear about society’s moral decline. No one listened to Noah, but it didn’t deter him from fulfilling the directive God gave him. Whatever your ministry is, keep working. God has a plan for its success and those touched by your work.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Keep praying. In order to bring spiritual revival to this nation, believers must stay on their knees. Lift up the President, Congress, and local leaders, whether on city or county councils or school boards. Ask God to soften their hearts toward His message as it relates to both their professional and personal lives. Pray for your fellow citizens that all may “come to a knowledge of the truth.”

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 3:1-2

Keep speaking. Whether your ministry is written or verbal, continue to spread the message God has given you. Our country needs spiritual awakening and not just among the lost. Christians should seek to discern God’s message through prayer and His written word. For those who think the Christian’s character should morph with societal changes, God’s character hasn’t changed from day one. That’s our model. As you read through the Bible, God’s nature is consistent from Genesis to Revelation.

America has been blessed abundantly by God’s mercy and grace. We mustn’t be lulled into complacency and believe there’s no end to His patience for moral and spiritual decline while evil flourishes around us. The great city of Nineveh is a good example that this isn’t so. They repented after Jonah preached to them. God forgave their sin and continued to bless them. Less than two hundred years later, Nineveh returned to its sinful ways, and God destroyed them.

The LORD has given a command concerning you, Nineveh: “You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the images and idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile.” Nahum 1:14

God kept his word. He always does. And I praise Him that we can count on His consistency.

According to the NIV Student Bible, “The greatest city in the world became a pile of rubble overgrown with grass. Both Alexander the Great and Napoleon camped near it but had no idea a city had ever been there.” (p. 966)

God is a fair and just God, but every nation and individual has a finite number of chances to repent and change their ways.

If you’re one of those in despair, I encourage you to have hope. As believers, we’ve read to the end of The Book. The Story starts and ends the same—in a beautiful garden. What lies in between is the path that leads to God’s mercy and grace.

Regardless of what happens in the immediate or long-range future of this country, God is on His throne. Now, more than ever, perseverance is imperative.

I still believe in your faithfulness
I still believe in your truth
I still believe in your Holy Word
Even when I don’t see
I still believe

A permanent prayer list is above along with updates on Sgt. Jesse McCart, the American soldier we are praying for. If you haven’t done so, would you consider sending him or another soldier a postcard encouraging them? Addresses are listed on the page, also. If you have a prayer need, please list in the comment section below so others can pray, or email me confidential requests. I'd love to hear from you!

Update/New Request:

Courtney, a young mother who has battled a cancerous brain tumor, will have her two-month repeat MRI this month. Her last two MRIs have been clear. She will continue chemo and MRIs for a year.

Pastor Benarji Kumar of True Light Ministry – There has been flooding in his region of India. He’s working to get clean water and supplies to people in great need. His own health hasn’t been good. Pray that God’s hand will be upon him as he ministers to others.

Would you take a moment to offer a word of prayer for these needs?
I will be launching a new blog in addition to this one on November 26. I will post more information soon about the content and mission of “Count The Costs.”


© Laura Hodges Poole

Photo courtesy of free clip art.