Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life On A High Wire

He did it! Daredevil Nik Wallenda wire walks across the Grand Canyon

That was the headline on Today News online shortly after Nik Wallenda of the famed Wallenda family high-wire and circus performers achieved a feat no one else had ever accomplished. To my knowledge, no one else has ever tried to walk across the Grand Canyon. I couldn’t decide whether his attempt without safety equipment on Sunday evening was just incredibly stupid, selfish (because of his children), or, as he portrayed it, an act of faith.

All I know is I couldn’t watch it. From the moment he stepped out and began praying, my feelings about the walk became more ambiguous. He obviously needed his faith to center him on his task, but would the world consider God just as great as Wallenda proclaimed if he’d fallen to his death? That’s the danger of challenging the laws of physics and gravity God put around us and then expecting Him to intercede when we do. Human error can, and often does, get folks killed.

Yet, who am I to judge Wallenda on his earthly feats? After all, many folks walk a spiritual high wire daily with no thought of tomorrow or their eternity. They’re willing to gamble that when they face physical death, there is no afterlife, or their good deeds will be sufficient to get into heaven, if it exists. Self worship is one way to term that belief system.

Good deeds should naturally flow from a Christian’s life. But good deeds in and of themselves will not buy entrance into heaven’s gates. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

Wallenda had one chance to get his walk right. If he’d slipped and fallen, his life would’ve been over. He risked everything. Without the tether Jesus provides through salvation, when physical death comes, there will be no more chances for the unsaved to get eternity right.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

Jesus loved us so much, he willingly sacrificed his life for us. We have all the chances in the world while we’re still alive. Once we are standing at heaven’s gates, our decisions are irrevocable.

Are you walking a high wire, balancing your earthly life against your spiritual life and hoping it’ll all work out in the end? My prayer for you today is that you’ll reach out and take God’s hand before it’s too late.

If you have a prayer need, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests.

Update on Emily, a middle-school girl battling osteosarcoma: Due to pain in Emily’s leg, surgeons successfully removed a plate screw yesterday morning that was snaring muscle tissue when she moved. They will continue to monitor her growth and decide later whether to address the minor discrepancy in her leg length.

Latest photo from Sgt. Jesse McCart's family:
Jesse sustained injuries in Afghanistan 
last summer and has been rehabbing since. 
Please continue to pray for him and his family.

Thanks for the continued prayer support for those who have requested it since I started posting a weekly prayer blog last year. I appreciate it, and I know they do. J

Would you take a moment to click on the Missions page to learn more about how you can support Pastor Mike and Adrian Gonzalez on their mission trip to South Sudan and Kenya in August? Yesterday’s blog post, Passport Through Darkness, sheds more light on the conditions in South Sudan as they struggle to build their new nation. Click here to read.

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Passport Through Darkness - A Book Review

Passport Through Darkness, by Kimberly L. Smith, available on Amazon.com.

Kimberly L. Smith captured my heart from the moment she stepped foot in South Sudan for the first time. I could well imagine the horror she felt on her first mission trip into the war-torn country and the subsequent journeys that led to more heartbreak and challenges to her mind, body, and soul. I never felt her soul was truly in danger, though the enemy tried his best to convince her otherwise. She shows through perseverance and obedience to God that His grace is sufficient even in the most hellish places. He works through broken vessels regardless of mistakes and self-doubts. Kimberly is painfully honest about her mistakes, yet her heart for women and orphans she ministers to comes through loud and clear.

There are humorous moments, especially with Kimberly’s South Sudan orphanage leader James Lual Atak. My favorite is when she “test drives” a donkey. The reader journeys with Kimberly and James on dirtbikes, through the thorny bush, battling wild animals, across rivers, and in the back of makeshift ambulances. In a country that lacks the most basic infrastructure or even availability of clean water, the challenges of building orphanages seemed insurmountable. Yet they never lost sight of the goal of providing for the “least of these” living in the bush where evil and nature claimed lives daily. Through James and Kimberly’s faithfulness, God helped them over each hurdle encountered.  

Based on previous reviews, I initially feared this book would be too dark for me. I wondered if I could handle what I would read. After praying, I purchased it then prayed again before reading. A book’s ability to totally enthrall and inspire its reader legitimizes its existence. Passport Through Darkness has done this and more. 

While death, disease, despair, and man-made cruelty riddle the pages, a fundamental tenet of Christianity is dying to self. This means willingness to give up everything for the cause of Christ, including fears and doubts that you’ll be equal to the task. Sometimes it means going alone into enemy territory when your sick spouse can’t accompany you. It made the author’s journey more tedious, but residing inside the will of God means trusting His hand to guide you, despite earthly troubles.

It could be said that if hell on earth exists, surely it’s in South Sudan. Yet Christ admonished Peter that the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against his church. It’s incumbent upon Christians to bring that light to humanity’s darkest places. Kimberly L. Smith has shown us through her work in South Sudan that the hope and love of Christ can penetrate evil’s deepest pits.

It’s often asked, “What can one person accomplish?” when the question ought to be, “What can one person obedient to God’s will accomplish?” The author answers this resoundingly in Passport Through Darkness.

©Laura Hodges Poole

Visit Make Way Partners for more information on Kimberly's work. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Diverging Paths

I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. ~Robert Frost

Have you ever encountered diverging roads and honestly couldn’t decide which path to take? In hindsight, you might feel you made the right choice but sometimes regret not taking the other path.

More often than not, the path chosen appears to hold more promise, security, adventure, intrigue, or perhaps even danger. Remember the old classics Alice in Wonderland and Huckleberry Finn? These were the first two classics I ever read and did so as an 8-year-old third grader. Though my third grade reading book contained interesting stories, I needed more of a challenge. Once I discovered more intricate stories waiting to be devoured, I visited the library as often as I could. I read Alice in Wonderland in two days, and it didn’t take much longer to read Huck Finn. Now, did I understand everything I read? Certainly not. The plots in both books contained adult themes and undertones an 8-year-old child growing up in the 1970s wouldn’t understand.

In both books, Alice and Huck were faced with “diverging roads” and chose the path of intrigue, adventure, and danger. I think it’s safe to say many folks wouldn’t be content with a wandering path that few travel.

Yet, in some ways, the path leading to danger or putting your life on the line for your fellow man might be less traveled. Certainly choosing a path that’s unpopular or goes against societal ills can be a difficult one to travel.

I’ve encountered many crossroads and paths in my life. I’ve spent the last thirty years raising children, and now my nest is almost empty. Almost, because Josh will live at home while attending college. At least, that’s the plan for now. As I look back thirty years and then to the future, I find myself assessing my life.

What will the next thirty years look like?

My career in medical transcription has evolved into a nightmare of healthcare administration changes, which will only get more cumbersome in the coming years. Through my efforts to continue my education in healthcare, it’s becoming more apparent that the satisfaction I used to feel in this area no longer exists. The chokehold of regulations and metered-out care will soon not resemble true healthcare.

My writing career continues to grow with opportunities, so I have a vision of what the future might hold career-wise.

But more importantly, I strongly believe and live by the admonition given in the Scriptures (Galatians 2:20 and Matthew 16:24-25) and reinforced through books like Amy Carmichael’s biography, A Chance to Die. Dying to self is a must for spiritual growth to produce Kingdom fruit in our lives to impact those around us.

My most important burden has to be the unsaved, the folks living in places deemed too dangerous to reach, widows, orphans, the untouchables, and the people society has deemed throwaways. These exist in every country in the world. I’m prayerfully hopeful that my future includes broadening my work in this mission field.

And then there is the ultimate path. The one that leads to salvation in Christ and our eternal life. If this is a decision you’re struggling with, I’d love to pray for you. Leave a comment or e-mail me.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

No matter what path or decisions you’re facing today, remember God is right there with you.

Would you consider taking a moment to click on the prayer list above and pray for those listed? If you have a prayer request, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests.

Do you have a “diverging path” story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear that, as well. J


©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

God's Amazing Grace

Yesterday, I shared about my son Josh's ordeal with a severe hand infection. Click here to read. God was so faithful in seeing us through this trial. He promises to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), but I was also reminded of the reasons we endure trials and why our struggle to get through them is normal.

We cannot grow spiritually if our faith is not exercised. Spiritual growth doesn’t occur through mountaintop experiences. Furthermore, we’re impotent to feel empathy for others’ suffering if our life grazes along in the peaceful pastures while they pick their way up rocky cliffs.

It’s a fallacy to believe Christians are entitled to reside on the mountaintop more so than non-believers. God often blesses us with such moments, but the lack or presence of these experiences shouldn’t cause us or others to assign a faith quotient to our lives. Some of the most faithful people I know have suffered mightily. Hmmm. Maybe there’s a correlation between the two. J

No matter the size of the problem, our despair, or our faith—God works! His faithfulness is not dependent on some formula we try to barter with based on our perceived greatness or failure. God is God. Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. He didn’t say we need a mountain of faith for him to answer prayer. He can work with the tiniest faith we possess. As shown in the Gospels, Jesus always came through for those who gave what faith they had to him.

[The boy’s father said], “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:22b-24
Jesus healed the man’s son. And this brings me to my next observation.

God can handle our despair. He knows our human frailties. Even Jesus experienced despair in his prayers before crucifixion and while hanging on the cross.

Going a little farther, he [Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Matthew 27:46
The key is to stay focused on God’s sovereignty and not the despair. We do this by remembering God’s grace.

God’s grace is sufficient. This is the toughest one for us to rely on totally. Yet it’s integral to growing our faith. We want the problem fixed. Now. Sometimes we succumb to bartering. Especially in fear. God has proven time and again to me that His grace is all I need during a trial.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:7b-9
Everything else God chooses to do is further blessing. My job is to hang onto that grace life raft while being tossed in the rapids and know it’s sufficient. Sure, I might be disheveled when I get back to dry, stable land, but I’ve survived. His grace not only sees me through the trial, but in his faithfulness, He restores me and makes my faith stronger than before.

The keys to staying the course in a trial are prayer and being grounded in God’s word. Satan’s attacks will come—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. We live in a fallen world—full of germs, disease, accidents, wars, famines, and so on. The only way we will survive spiritually during periods of suffering is to put on His armor.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:10-12
Josh is better. I’m grateful his trial is over. But even when I felt despair during it, God was there. I sensed his presence. I felt his touch. He bound up my heart and protected my son. I’m thankful for the outcome and never doubted God’s faithfulness.

Isn’t this the bottom line in all we do as Christians? When we can’t see the outcome, we can trust Him to get it right. It’s God’s amazing grace that sees us through.

He will never leave or forsake us. Praise God!

How many times have you heard me cry out
"God please take this"?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

If you have a prayer need, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. The prayer list and updates for Sgt. Jesse McCart are at the top of the blog. Please remember to lift these folks up in prayer. 

Prayer Request: Betty asks for prayer for her Uncle Wayne who recently had a stroke. He is undergoing open heart surgery today.

Also, check out the Missions page at the top, as well, for an opportunity to lend support for a Sudan mission trip. Thanks! J


©Laura Hodges Poole

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Life's Deadly Snares

Deadly bacteria
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:7-10

I naively commented in last week’s blog post that we were enjoying an unhurried peaceful feeling in our little corner of the world since my son Josh’s graduation. Little did I know, within 48 hours, that peace would be shattered, and I’d be fighting despair and helplessness, sinking to a spot where I wrestled with the temptation of bartering with God. You know the prayer that dances on the tip of your tongue and in your heart as you wage an earthly battle for your child.

Not his life, but mine.

Even as I type this, I battle feelings of wanting to wrap him tightly in a cocoon to keep him from harm. Once you go through a trial, life’s not the same. The new normal it’s termed, as you pick up the pieces and move forward.

But let me back up to the beginning of last week.

Monday evening, Josh mentioned his finger hurt. As I examined it, he explained it was the finger he uses to pull the clutch lever on his dirtbike. A week before, on Sunday afternoon, we’d been at the dirtbike track where he rode off and on for five hours. He’d wrecked a couple of times, and his ankle was swollen and sore. We dealt with that most of the week but made it through graduation on Friday without trouble. Except for a couple of minor blisters on his hands, the rest of his body was fine. He wears gloves, but because we were out longer than usual, he developed a couple of tiny blisters on his left hand and middle finger.

So eight days later, as I surveyed his left middle finger, nothing much appeared out of the ordinary. A little swollen, the finger joint worked fine. His grip was fine. A small bruise graced the middle pad of the finger along with slightly sloughed skin where the blister had been. We iced it, and I gave him Advil. The next day he mentioned it again. Still no evidence of a problem except for minor swelling. We began Epson salt soaks with the assumption it was probably a lingering strain.

Wednesday morning, he woke me at 4:00 a.m. in pain. I gave him Advil and Tylenol and told him we needed to see a doctor. By mid-morning, he said it felt fine. I thought perhaps we’d turned a corner. The finger wasn’t red or hot. He went about his business, worked at the fire station, and that evening decided to spend a night with a friend. My “mom” alarm bells went off immediately. What if you wake up in pain again? He said, “Mom, I’m fine.”

At 7:00 a.m. the next morning, my cell phone buzzed a text. I’m headed home.

I met him at the door. His finger looked like a Bratwurst sausage, swollen, misshapen, and he was in obvious pain.

Shortly thereafter, the doctor looked at it and said, “That’s a pretty severe tendon sheath infection. I’ve got to open it up.”

I’ll spare you the gory details, but Josh and I were both shaken by the time it was over, though I wore my positive Mom smile and reassured him all was fine. Inside I quaked. I prayed. I feared he’d lose his finger. His hand. Or his life.

I numbly went through the motions of getting his antibiotic prescription filled and taking the swab downstairs to the lab for analysis. Still in excruciating pain, Josh collapsed on the sofa once home after a large dose of Advil. 

Later that night as he slept, I stood in his bedroom doorway in the dark and prayed. I slept fitfully, alternating between prayer and waves of despair. There’s something about the dead of night, when cold dark terror grips your soul and mind, and problems loom larger than life.

But this time, the threat was real. The doctor had been clear in his read-between-the-lines conversation with me when I’d asked, “What about the finger and tendon?”

He shook his head and said, “I can’t answer that yet.”

I couldn’t put my next thought into words. Instead, I turned my attention back to Josh.

The doctor understood my question, and having worked in the medical field for 15 years, I understood his reply and what was left unsaid.

The following afternoon we returned. The nurse removed the bandage and much to my dismay, the finger looked awful. I expected to see a neat little incision, possibly draining, but healing. I don’t know how my mind conjured up that delusion, except that Josh’s pain had vanished, and he’d taken three doses of antibiotics. Instead, Josh and I stared at the disgusting infection oozing from the wound. The nurse left the room. Josh whipped out his cell phone. “I’m taking a picture of this.”

Yes, in the midst of everything, count on your child to provide comic relief. J

The doctor looked at the finger, applied pressure to the wound, which almost launched Josh off the treatment table, and then cleaned the incision. The doctor and I stared at the hand. I waited in silence, praying, as he considered the next step. Finally, he said, “It’s time for hospital medicine.” I nodded. He left the room to get the process started.

Josh was full of questions. Up to that point, the full brunt of what he faced hadn’t struck him. Now his mind processed what I’d struggled with for 24 hours.

The doctor returned. Change of plans. Because Josh is 18, he couldn’t be admitted through the pediatric process, and the doctor didn’t want to send him downtown to the “big house” in lieu of keeping him on the smaller hospital campus where the doctor’s office is also housed. He changed Josh’s oral antibiotics and drew a line around the infection with a Sharpie, with my assurances we would do Epson salt soaks every two hours and contact him immediately if the infection breached the black Sharpie line.

Again, Josh slept soundly that night. Again, I fought against the “what ifs” as I tried to sleep. With prayer, I succeeded.

Morning showed improvement, and we all breathed easier. Until the infection site completely heals, he’s not out of the woods, but we’re getting there.

When the lab results came in, I asked Josh, “Do you want the bad news or good news?”

“The bad news.”  He’s his mother’s son. J

We discussed the results, the ramifications, and the bullet he’d dodged. He spent some time digesting the information.

Later, he said, “So what was the good news?”

I smiled. “You still have your finger…and your life.”


I will share the spiritual application of this experience in tomorrow’s weekly prayer post. Until then, remember—Regardless of the trial, God’s always faithful to see you through.

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Single-Hearted Peace

Quiet solitude
“Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.”~Amy Carmichael, missionary

I managed to make it through my son’s graduation last Friday with no tears, just overwhelming joy and pride for what he’s accomplished. His early life traveled a bumpy road, but he is an overcomer.

The whirlwind of senior activity finally came to a resounding end, and as Josh and I sat on the couch watching TV Sunday evening, I turned to him and said, “I almost asked if you had any homework.”

(As most of you with kids know, almost supernaturally homework has a tendency to be remembered at the end of the weekend, instead of at the beginning, despite promptings from Mom.) J

We shared a laugh and agreed this not-having-to-do-anything feeling we’re suddenly experiencing is weird. No more hurriedness. Maybe we’ll have a little more peace and quiet in our corner of the world. At least for a while.

Earlier in the evening, a small tornado came through our town in the midst of a severe thunderstorm. Josh went to the fire station (he’s a volunteer firefighter) to hang out in anticipation of calls. They had three.

With all the computers and televisions unplugged because of the lightning, I suggested the rest of us read. Reading has become such a luxury for me. So I seized the opportunity. About five minutes into our reading time, my daughter Lindsay started laughing. She said it was too quiet. I’ll admit it was pretty quiet without the hum of electronics or TV chatter.

I often wonder if the reason so many Christians struggle with finding God’s will for their lives—and thus their ability to impact others—is due to lack of “clearness of spirit which is life and peace.”

I thrive in quiet solitude. In that place, God speaks to me. He chips away at my human frailties, strengthens and sculpts me into a vessel to further His Kingdom. If you’re a hurried person who rarely experiences solitude with God, I pray for quiet stillness for you to experience our Lord in a way that will transform your Christian walk.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
(Carl Boberg, 1885)

“Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11 KJV
Praise Reports and Updates:

Courtney, a young mother who’s battled brain cancer for the past couple of years, had another clean MRI. She’ll see an endocrinologist to address fatigue/glucose issues and evaluate her pituitary and thyroid glands. Please keep her in your prayers as she continues chemo. Her husband was deployed to Korea with the military in April. She has tremendous family support, but please keep all of them in your prayers.

Emily is a middle school young lady battling osteosarcoma, an aggressive and difficult to treat cancer. Her family update is a little long, but I felt compelled to share most of the e-mail I received.

Emily will be going through her quarterly tests on Thursday, June 6. Her lungs, heart, legs, and hearing will be evaluated. All of the tests are designed to look for cancer or side effects from the treatment. Prayers that Emily will remain cancer and side effect free forever are greatly appreciated! The weeks leading to these exams are filled with anxiety and stress.
On a positive note, Emily is walking without assistance and progressing in her physical therapy. The physical scars are continuing to heal. Her hair is growing quickly. She is not overly fond of the new post-chemo color or the new wavy style in which her hair has manifested. However, she is still happy to have a full head of hair that is lengthening daily.
On Friday, June 7th, Emily will be visiting Senate offices to increase awareness about orphan diseases, pediatric cancer, and harmful products. 
Below is my Debbie Downer Section: 
Middle School has been a roller-coaster. Emily's grades have been incredible considering the circumstances. She worked diligently to catch up and has received high marks. She rarely displayed sadness last year while missing 5th grade, not being able to walk, or participate in many activities. The thing she looked forward to the most was going back to school and being with her friends. Now she dreads going to school. She has been dismissed from social networks and forgotten in several previously close friendships. Classmates shy away from an interaction because she looks different, and she if often picked last as a partner. This has caused Emily to withdraw. It pains me to write this, but it is true. Cancer is difficult enough on a child, but imagine living in a city for only two months prior to diagnosis, losing your hair, experiencing 10 months of grueling therapy, and a double bone transplant...yet she is also trying to heal physically and mentally while experiencing the judgmental environment and drama associated with Middle School. I know most children do not realize how their actions impact others at this age...we have no anger, just sadness. Emily has been through so much, there is no need for this. It makes no sense. My heart aches for my daughter.
Although, this has been tough on her...Emily still remains true to herself, she is normally caring and responsible. Emily was invited to sit at a "popular" table during lunch several weeks ago, but declined. When I heard the story, I was shocked and asked why did you decline? She said that her friend, the only classmate that routinely sits with her at lunch, would have been alone! It is just the two of them. When she is asked again, we have coached her to say "yes" on the condition her friend can join. Hopefully, that will be an acceptable answer. 
We have received a tremendous amount of support, and we are extremely thankful. Our family would not have made it without the help we received. As always, prayers and positive thoughts are appreciated.  ~Steve, Emily’s father 
Please continue to pray for Courtney and Emily, as well as the others on the prayer list at the top of the blog. If you have a prayer request, please share in the comments section or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you! J


©Laura Hodges Poole