Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When Life Resembles A Junk Drawer

Life is like...a pile of junk?
“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”~Thomas A. Edison

I have a junk drawer in my kitchen. Actually, I’m ashamed to say, I have more than one and in other rooms of the house. The one pictured on the left is one of my neater drawers! J You probably have one, as well, that collects odds and ends, extra straws, rubber bands, coupons, and little plastic pieces that fit on something, but who knows what? Stray crayons, pencils, and my personal favorite—ink pens that no longer write!

No doubt, Edison embraced junk, but lately, I’ve thought about how our lives can resemble junk drawers. And, unlike Edison, my creativity is hampered by junk. I’ve been feeling a nudge by the Holy Spirit to start cleaning out the junk. Turn the drawer upside down, let everything spill out, and then start over, assembling the proper order, perspective, and priorities to achieve my ministry and writing goals.

After all, it’s God’s ministry to do with what He wishes. I’m just the vessel He works through. But when I allow my schedule, my priorities, and society (yes, even Christian society), to interfere, it’s time to toss the drawer and see what needs to remain.

I’m in this process now. Reexamining my goals and the path I’ve chosen to achieve them is at the top of the list. I’m doing some intense soul searching and praying to reach tough decisions. Tough rarely looks attractive and will never be mistaken for ease. But it’s often necessary.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

This verse from Ephesians is one of my favorites because it reflects my earnest desire not to waste my God-ordained time and to understand what He wants me to do with this time.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I embark on the journey to empty the junk drawer and discern what goes back in and what gets tossed.

Now, it’s your turn. What one thing could you do to make life simpler or more functional, whether on an emotional, physical, or spiritual level? How do you plan to achieve this? If you’d like to share to encourage others, please do so. I’d love to hear from you!

You're the one who conquers giants
You're the one who calls out kings
You shut the mouths of lions
You tell the dead to breathe
You're the one who walks through fire
You take the orphan's hand
You are the one Messiah
You are I am
You are I am

I’ve added a new page at the top of my blog on mental illness. It contains a collection of articles I’ve written, as well as resource information. If you or a loved one is struggling with this issue, please take a moment to check it out.

Prayer Requests:
If you have a prayer need, please share it in the comments or e-mail me confidential requests. Our prayer list is located at the top of the blog along with info on Sgt. Jesse McCart, an American soldier injured by an IED in Afghanistan. Our soldiers continue to suffer and be killed from these type injuries in Afghanistan. Would you take a few moments to pray for these folks? Thanks!

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Learning to Trust

“I do not trust people who don't love themselves and yet tell me, 'I love you.' There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
― Maya Angelou, poet

Hmmm. Never thought of trust quite that way, but she has a point. And it’s made me think about how many times in my life a naked person offered me a shirt, metaphorically speaking, of course.

I tend to trust people until they show me otherwise. Most of us have had an ah-ha moment when a “friend’s” true colors shone through. As I wrote about in this guest blog post, My Middle Name Is Not 'Doormat', I used to have a tendency toward allowing people to walk over me, even when the evidence pointed toward their being wrong and me being right. After all, they claimed to be a friend, and some folks are pretty gifted at skewing reality in their favor.

Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. Psalm 41:9

Apparently, even the psalmist had trouble with friends who stabbed him in the back.

So what do we do when this happens? We can swear never to trust anyone again. A little extreme. Or we put up emotional walls to protect ourselves from being hurt again. Or we don’t recognize the pattern and continue to trust folks blindly and eventually get hurt again.

Despite how we choose to handle untrustworthy people, I’ve found one friend who has never let me down.


Since the beginning of time, he’s loved us. His words and actions are trustworthy.

How do I know he’s a trustworthy friend?

He mediates on our behalf in heaven.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6a

He intercedes for us in prayer.

Jesus’s prayer for believers prior to his crucifixion: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their [the disciples’] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” John 17:20b-24

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:34

He is preparing a place for us in heaven.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:1-4

He loved us first and called us friend.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:13-15

Consider this about God’s nature:

"But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.”
― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

If you’re having trouble trusting the folks in your life, start with Jesus. The relationship you build with Him will enable you to discern authenticity in people.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Ultimately, this is what relationships come down to. Even with the best safeguards around our hearts and minds, the only way to truly know if someone is trustworthy is just to trust them.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse that has helped you with trust issues? I’d love for you to share it. J

I hope you're as blessed as I am when you listen to this Third Day song, "Trust in Jesus."

Praise Report:
My great-nephew Jack, who has Perthes disease, came through his hip surgery fine. Please continue to pray for him and his parents as they adjust to the new normal of healing and rehab.

Prayer Requests:
If you have a prayer need, please share it in the comments or e-mail me confidential requests. Our prayer list is located at the top of the blog along with info on Sgt. Jesse McCart, an American soldier injured by an IED in Afghanistan. Would you consider taking a few moments to pray for these folks? Thanks!


©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gaining Courage, Conquering Fear

Have you ever been so hopelessly lost you thought you’d never find your way back? Most of us have had that experience on a physical, emotional, or spiritual level. Today, my sister Teresa shares her experience of getting lost while hiking at a state park with her late husband Sal. Stick around to the end, where I’ll share the spiritual application. J

About 18 years ago, Sal and I spent many weekends hiking the trails at O'Leno State Park in Florida. On one occasion, we planned to do a long hike that would take 4-5 hours to complete. We brought food and water, planning to have a picnic out in the woods. Unfortunately, we stepped off the trail and onto a deer path and were miserably lost for hours. This was prior to cell phones and, with our unfamiliarity of this area in the deep woods, we could do nothing but say a prayer and keep walking. 

We ended up behind Camp Kulaqua. We had to climb the fence, walk through the camp, a mile out to the main road, and back to O'Leno. We estimated we had walked at least 24 miles that day. It was a day we never forgot!

After Sal was diagnosed with cancer, O'Leno was our refuge. We sometimes just drove out, sat near the bridge, and enjoyed the peace it brought to us.

For years, I’ve wanted to conquer that trail but have been too "a-feared" to try it. Well, today, with food, water, and a cell phone, I did just that! I set out with much more knowledge of trail markings. I checked in with the park rangers, so they knew where I was heading. I kept my eyes alert and proceeded cautiously, carefully staying on the right path. It took 3 hours to get to my destination of River Rise and 2 1/2 hours to get back.

I was out in God's glorious country, with deer prints on the path and some areas completely grown over. I was alone...what an awesome feeling to experience God's presence in everything around me. And, the moment I realized I was walking past a 4-foot rattlesnake on the trail, I maintained that peaceful feeling. Alright, yes, I did levitate and say, "holy cannoli." J But, it did not lessen my feeling of closeness with my Lord. I must say, I am proud of myself for stepping out there and not only conquering that trail, but conquering my fear, as well. And, I think Sal would be pretty proud of me, too!

~Teresa Lynn

Knowing Sal, I’m sure he would’ve been proud of Teresa. I certainly am. She’s been a great spiritual inspiration to me and all who know her.

Many times in life we encounter paths that appear to lead in the right direction. Then they turn into scary, meandering unknown trails that we’re desperate to escape.  

Sometimes the enemy entices us onto the wrong path.

And sometimes, we choose the wrong path because we don’t interpret the warning signs to stay away.

But consider this: Sometimes we know the path is right, and we’re simply too afraid to step onto it. Like Teresa, we’ve had previous bad experiences or we fear the unknown. We’ve been burned one too many times. We’re scared we’ll get hopelessly lost.  

Our faith walk emulates this at times. God leads us on a spiritual journey, but he doesn’t promise it will be a path of roses minus the thorns. But he does promise to walk with us. We simply have to obey. Doesn’t seem so simple, though, does it? Yet when we step out on faith and trust God to lead us, he won’t disappoint. His promises enable us to be courageous.

It was by faith Abraham obeyed God’s call to go to another place God promised to give him. He left his own country, not knowing where he was to go. Hebrews 11:8

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Has God called you to walk a path that seems scary and full of unknowns? Or maybe it’s filled with known threats? Share a scripture that has given you courage to follow His call.

Would you take a moment to pray for those on the list at the top of the blog and for the requests below?

My 7-year-old great-nephew Jack is undergoing surgery on his hip next Tuesday, July 23, due to Perthes disease. Please pray for his surgeons and hospital staff, as well as for the best possible outcome for him. Prayers for peace for his parents during this stressful time would also be appreciated.

Tony has started having frequent migraine headaches. Please pray for him to figure out what is triggering the migraines and for pain relief.

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

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Blind-Sided by Trials

Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other…So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. Genesis 37:17b-19, 23-24

I got blind-sided this week. Not like Joseph. No cisterns or evil brothers. Instead, it involved a nice duck pond and a rather aggressive goose.

My children, Lindsay and Josh, and I stopped at the duck pond one day while she was here visiting. Ever since Lindsay was a little girl, it’s been one of her favorite things to do. So, with bread and crackers in hand, we strolled through the group of ducks and geese. Believe me, no one went hungry. When I suggested we mosey on down the path to feed the turtles, a goose charged and latched onto my leg above my knee. I’m not suggesting he understood English and knew his food source was leaving, but whatever his reason for aggression, neither I, nor my leg, cared. I just wanted the fool thing to turn loose, which he eventually did. A pit bull wouldn’t have anything on a goose’s beak. In hindsight, I should’ve grabbed him around the neck and his mouth probably would’ve popped open. A tidbit of info to store away, if it happens again. J
We’ve all been blindsided in life by an unwanted attack. Most aren’t as silly as my illustration. Sometimes it’s an accident or illness or death of a loved one. The victims of the 9/11 terror attacks were blindsided. People receiving cancer diagnoses are blindsided.

I talked to a friend today who suffered through a life-changing trial a few years ago. Of course, as we all do, she asked the why question.

Why did you allow this, God?

The fallout and suffering hardly seemed worth any good that could come from it. Recently, God has begun to provide opportunities for her to minister to others going through similar life-altering situations.

As Christians, our response during trials will include the why question. There’s nothing wrong with that. But getting stuck there can pose serious spiritual problems. In time, God often shows us the “why” of a situation through what we choose to do with the lesson of the trial.

Do we simply rail against pain and suffering? Or do we become more mature Christians by choosing to walk through the trial with Him?

The Apostle Paul spoke of such trials throughout his many letters.

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3

We can expect to be blind-sided in this fallen world. But we can also cling to the promise from James, the half-brother of Jesus:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

And again from the Apostle Paul:

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 disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5

God doesn’t just leave us in the trial to suffer. He brings us through stronger, as more mature Christians, abiding in his hope and sharing it with those we encounter.

My prayer for each of us today is we’ll accept God’s grace and mercy to comfort and strengthen us as we persevere through our trials. May we experience the joy that only He can provide through the Holy Spirit.

I don't know, I don't know
What tomorrow may hold
But I know, but I know
That You're holding it all
So no matter what may come

I'm gonna fix my eyes on all that You are
'Til every doubt I feel
Deep in my heart
Grows strangely dim
(Francesca Battistelli)

Please pray for comfort, strength, healing, and wisdom for those listed on the prayer list above, as well as for those on the mission page and Sgt. Jesse McCart.

New prayer requests this week:
·       Children seriously injured (blunt trauma and burns) during a fireworks show. Please pray for their physical and emotional recovery, as well as comfort during their healing.
·        Laura Hilton’s oldest son, unnamed request. “God knows.”
·        Christian McNeal recently gave birth and is undergoing surgery for a condition that developed after delivery.
·        Pregnant young lady hospitalized for possible preeclampsia

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


©Laura Hodges Poole

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When Fires Rage

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

It seems we just finished celebrating my son Josh’s high school graduation, and we’re already well underway with college enrollment. Last week, we met the Fire Science department head and toured one of the fire houses the college uses for hands-on training. Josh is a little ahead of the game since he’s taken several fire courses in our county and has been a volunteer firefighter for almost three years.
During Josh’s high school years, he wasn’t the only teen on our volunteer force, but some who wanted to join couldn’t. I watched with a little amusement and a whole lot of sympathy as a few teen boys were hampered by well-meaning parents. Of course, I know the feeling of not wanting my son to see mangled bodies in traffic fatalities or other home accidents, nor do I necessarily love the idea of him charging into burning buildings or working in the midst of an out-of-control brush fire. He's experienced all these things, and at some point in his career, he may face the shadow of death himself or with his fellow firefighters or citizens he’s trying to protect. But it’s a reality I dealt with early on, and I cover him with prayer when he races out the door to a call.
Regardless of the fear, so many things can destroy our youth, and I’m sure firefighting is at the bottom of the list.
Josh is so excited to be on a path to becoming a career firefighter. I’m excited for him. J I can’t let myself worry about the what ifs. Firefighting is more than a career. It’s a calling. All you have to do is hang out at a fire house or watch firefighters in action, and you’ll see this is so.
This week brought to the forefront the dangers firefighters face every day in this nation. Nineteen firefighters of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, an elite firefighting crew, perished in Arizona’s massive wildfire on Sunday. Sixty-two firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty in 2013. This is the third deadliest wildfire in U.S. history for firefighters and the most lost in a single incident since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.
According to the U.S. Fire Service:
Fire statistics: (2011)
·         1,100,450 firefighters protected the United States in 2011.
    • 344,050 (31%) were career firefighters and
    • 756,040 (69%) were volunteer firefighters.
·         Two-thirds (66%) of fire department responses were medical calls in 2011.
·         A fire department responds to a fire every 23 seconds.
Firefighter injuries (2011)
·         There were 70,090 firefighter injuries in 2011.
·         30,505 of all firefighter injuries in 2011 occurred during fireground operations. Other firefighter injuries by type of duty include: responding to, or returning from an incident (3,870); training (7,515); non-fire emergency (14,905); and other on-duty activities (13,295).
·         There were 64 firefighter deaths in 2012.
A Fireman's Life
A fireman's life is one big surprise,
Usually he laughs, sometimes he cries.
There's always stress, toil and strife,
Hoping he's good enough to save just one life.
His wife [or mom] understands when he misses dinner,
If he runs out of church, don't think he's a sinner.
Answering a call is tops on his list,
Regretting each one he's ever missed.
He tries and tries, but can't make us see,
The happiest men still work for free.
Jumping from bed, fighting the cold,
Knowing what to do, without being told.
He rushes to the station, jumps on a truck.
Depending on skill, never on luck.
Putting his life on the line, for an unknown friend,
Hoping and praying, it won't be the end.
"The Bravest Men in the World," the title is fitting,
They all do their best, never come close to quitting.
Next time you see them, all their lights blinking,
Take just a minute, to think what they're thinking.
It's a hard job, so show them you care,
And help them out, with a little prayer.
-- by Daniel S. Driscoll –
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Even though I walk through the valley
Of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I'm caught in the middle
Of the storms of this life
I won't turn back, I know You are near
Please take a few moments to lift up in prayer the families of the fallen firefighters, as well as the public servants, firefighters, and police officers who put their life on the line every day for us. In addition to the permanent prayer list at the top of the blog:
Prayer requests this week:
·       A gentleman asks for God to provide a way for him to see and talk to his kids.
·       After undergoing months of grueling chemotherapy for stage 3 breast cancer, Beth is undergoing a mastectomy Wednesday morning. Please pray for her surgeons, the hospital staff, and Beth for a successful surgery.
·       From Betty: Please pray for my nephew, Johnray, and his wife, Christian. They just had their first baby (my great niece – beautiful Mia) and thank the Lord the baby is doing great but Mommy is not. She started having a ton of pain within hours of delivery and they thought she had gallstones yet when the doctor finally came to see her tonight he now says he is not sure and ordered a MRI. She is in so much pain she can’t even nurse Mia. Also my nephew is having problems at work and is worried about his job if he has to take off again on Monday. Please pray for this young family!
·       A Christian mom has a very young daughter with cancer. Please lift this family up in prayer, that God may provide comfort, strength, wisdom, and healing as they go through this trial. (I hope to be able to share more details on this family next week, but for now God knows who this is.)
If you have a prayer need, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you.
©Laura Hodges Poole