Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Facing Mortality

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” 2 Kings 20:1

In the middle of the night, I felt Josh’s hand on my shoulder about the same time he said, “Mom.” Even grown children wake Mom when they’re sick.

I learned thirty years ago, when I first became a mother, to rise when summoned. It’s what moms do, right? J

How many times have you been awakened by a 3:00 a.m. phone call, knowing it can’t be good news? Dread fills you even before you become fully conscious. A big deal always ensues during Presidential elections as to what each candidate would do when they receive that infamous 3:00 a.m. phone call of impending disaster.

But what happens when God summons us home? As Christians, we joyfully look forward to that day.


Yes, but…if we’re honest, as mere humans, sometimes we fear death—or perhaps the moments preceding it.

I read a book a few years ago, "The Last Lecture," by Randy Pausch. It’s not uncommon for professors to give a speech framed by their impending hypothetical death. However, Pausch, a computer science professor, had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when he was scheduled to speak. He didn’t have to imagine what his final lecture would be because he gave it. Later published, it’s a beautiful book, full of humor and inspiration that he left as a testament for his small children about how to live.

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." --Randy Pausch

So what would our response be if God actually told us how our days were numbered? I’ve heard some terminally ill people characterize it as a gift. Each day takes on more meaning, tastes sweeter, and time is no longer wasted on the trivial. Let’s take a look at Hezekiah’s response.

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 2 Kings 20:2-3

That sounds more like what my response might be. J I’d like to think I’d be noble, but in all honesty, I can’t swear on a stack of Bibles I would.

Don’t ever be afraid to go to the throne of God boldly, even weeping bitterly, over a seemingly insurmountable problem. God can handle our human frailties. After all, He made us. He always reaches out and touches us with His comfort and mercy. And sometimes He honors the request for healing and longevity. Other times, He takes people to heaven to heal them. 

So, how did life turn out for Hezekiah?

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered. 2 Kings 20:4-7

Your needs might be serious, maybe even like Hezekiah or Pausch faced. Or they might seem minor, like Josh’s illness, yet they’re dragging you down. No matter the problem, God cares. I care. If you’d like prayer, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. Would you take a moment while you’re here to lift up those folks on the prayer list at the top of the blog? Several are battling cancer or facing family crises.

I recently joined a blog with 25 other writers called Stitches Thru Time (Whether it's a conversation with a friend, a word that is penned, or a craft that is made, everything we do leaves a stitch in the fabric of time. Join us as we investigate the stitches of the past and present...). I’ll be posting there once a month. Click here to read my devotion posted on Monday and then take a few moments to look through the other posts. You’ll enjoy devotions, craft lessons, historical posts, giveaways, author interviews, and more. There’s a little bit of something for everyone. I’ll be posting there once a month. Thanks! J

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Power of a Dangerous Prayer

Jesus in Gethsemane
“When an answer I did not expect comes to a prayer which I believed I truly meant, I shrink back from it; if the burden my Lord asks me to bear, be not the burden of my heart's choice, and I fret inwardly and do not welcome His will, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”—Amy Carmichael, missionary.

As I meditated on what I’d share this week, God brought me back to a message He gave me a year and a half ago, “The Power of a Dangerous Prayer.” It was not only exactly what I needed to read again, but in light of the growing chaos in the world around us, I sensed this was a message God wanted me to share again. When everything else in life is in turmoil, peace exists inside the will of God.

Prayer has been called many things, but I doubt few consider it dangerous. How would you characterize something which has the potential to end your existence as you know it?

That doesn’t make sense, you might be thinking. Prayer is a solace place we enter to meet God. We bare our souls, share our heartaches, offer petitions, and intercede for others. Sounds like a neat, safe place to abide. And it is.

But suppose you yearn for an even deeper, richer relationship with God—to live fully in a manner you’ve not fathomed before. Are you willing to push your spiritual life outside of its comfort zone and into the danger zone to do so?

The five scariest words we could utter during prayer, many people don’t—or won’t. Praying these words mean death—death to self—an end to selfish desires and the beginning of God’s desires to define our lives.

Safety nets are stripped away—power is relinquished.

The five words?

Not my will, but Yours.

Now, let’s get real for a moment. I mean really real. Think of the most monumental problem you’re facing. You may even have a pretty good idea of how to solve it, if everything would just work out the way you imagine. Are you willing to turn loose of your solution?

Makes your heart skip a beat to consider giving the problem to God, then utter, “not my will, but Yours,”—and mean it!

Is the unknown scary? Sure. Has God’s will pushed me outside of my comfort zone at times? Most definitely. However, the blessings and spiritual growth I’ve experienced as a result of praying those five scary words are immense.

Though you’re not guaranteed instant gratification or easy solutions to your petitions, God’s will provides the perfect answer. Christ prayed the same words when he faced death on a cross (Luke 22:42). God’s answer didn’t spare Jesus’ life—instead it granted life to millions of others.

Let me add one caveat. Please don’t hear me say what I’m not. There’s nothing wrong with goals and desires. God gives us those desires (Ps. 37:4). He designed man to yearn for progress. The million dollar question is—Are you willing to give those desires back to God and say, not my will, but yours, and trust Him to bless you?

God’s answer often weaves a beautiful pattern which, in hindsight, you marvel over its brilliance. He doesn’t grant that beforehand—only after you’ve exercised faith by relinquishing control.

So, are you ready to pray dangerously by submitting to the Ultimate Power? I’d love to hear from you about how God has worked in your life when you’ve done so.

Praise report on Hunter, the 10-year-old we’ve been praying for who was bitten in the face by his own dog and received over 2000 stitches to reconstruct. From a family friend: He is home and doing well. He has his sense of humor back, and the scars are healing very nice. God has answered everyone’s prayers. The doctors are seriously baffled and amazed by his progress.

Praise God!

Prayer request for Lydia, a 2-year-old little girl with pre-B Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). She is undergoing chemotherapy. Her family would appreciate prayers.

If you have a prayer request, please share it in the comments or e-mail me confidential requests. Our permanent prayer list is located at the top of the blog. Would you take a moment to pray for the folks who leave comments, as well as those already on the list? Thanks!


©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Wandering Sheep

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? Matthew 18:12

I returned Monday from a four-day getaway to Myrtle Beach, SC. I’m exhausted but had a good time with my daughter Lindsay, her husband Jose, my son Josh, and my husband James. Five people in the same hotel room can get dicey at times, but we managed. J

The weather was beautiful, hot, and sunny. I enjoyed walking up and down the beach and wading in the water, but I’m not much of a swimmer or boogey-boarder like my kids. We saw a few jellyfish, which made me even more squeamish about venturing out too far.

We also shopped and ate delicious seafood. Lindsay gave Josh the new book by Duck Dynasty’s Si Robertson, “Si-cology 101” for Josh’s 19th birthday, which happens to be today. (Happy Birthday, Buddy!)

My favorite thing about the beach is how close I feel to God when I’m there. His awesome power is displayed in the crashing waves, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and the enormity of the sky when standing on the edge of the continent looking out across what seems like infinite miles of ocean. It was almost as if I could reach out and touch my Creator while I basked in the glow of His Spirit.

One afternoon, Josh rode waves on his boogey-board while I waded and tried to stay upright amidst crashing waves when I ventured out too far. J A rogue wave crashed over him, tossing and churning him and his board. When he regained his footing, his sunglasses and croakies holding them on were gone. We searched and searched, but we might as well have been looking for a particular grain of sand. Disappointed, Josh finally went back to his board. I continued to scan the water and beach hoping to catch a glimpse of his sunglasses.

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? Luke 15:8

Josh’s lost sunglasses, the woman’s lost coin, and the shepherd’s lost sheep all have something in common. Their owners frantically searched for something important to them. In the Biblical parables, Jesus likened the search for “lost” things to him seeking out lost souls. While he treasures the saved, his heart grieves for the lost. He’ll knock and knock at the door of their hearts, until they open or choose to slam the deadbolt permanently into place. Then his heart grieves even more. He gave his life as a sacrifice for the lost sheep, yet many are content to graze on the mountainside of eternal damnation, only considering what’s in front of them and not the danger lurking behind the boulders and bushes. Our temporal earthly existence and path to salvation have a short shelf-life. Tragically, some choose to ignore that.

As we go to the Lord in prayer today, take a moment to lift up our President and other world leaders as decisions are made in regards to Syria. The world cannot turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons, but wisdom and discernment need to be exercised when seeking a solution. This is something often in short supply in the government. Pray that our leaders will seek God’s will for our country’s involvement in the crisis.

Please join me in lifting up our nation in prayer on this Patriots’ Day and the families of those killed on this day twelve years ago, as well as the families of the Americans killed in the terrorist attack last September 11 in Benghazi, Libya. No matter how much time passes or memories fade in our nation’s psyche, it will never fade for them.

I’ve covered many topics, but I also want to highlight that this is national suicide prevention awareness week. One in four Americans have a diagnosable mental illness. I’ve written extensively about my sister’s mental illness and suicide and these topics in general. These articles, devotions, and blog postings, as well as resource information can be accessed on the Mental Illness page on the top of the blog.

The video I’m sharing is a compilation of songs from a Third Day concert. I pray their message touches you in a special way.

If you have a prayer need, please share it in the comments or e-mail me confidential requests. We have many requests on the list at the top of the blog. These folks appreciate your continued prayers as many battle life-threatening illnesses and family/personal crises.

May God bless each of you with peace this day.


©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Syrian Conundrum

The angel of the Lord also said to her [Hagar]: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” Genesis 16:11-12

For thousands of years, conflict has raged in the Middle East. Whether Arab against Jew or Arab sects fighting amongst themselves, I’ve lost count, just in my lifetime, of the endless uprisings, wars, and skirmishes.

This much is true: Lasting peace will only come to mankind after Jesus comes to establish His Kingdom.  

So what are we to do in the meantime? Intervene each time there is a humanitarian crisis amidst the conflicts, or merely shake our heads and say, “Tsk, tsk, nothing will ever be solved in the Middle East.”

I’ll admit I don’t have an answer. If I did, perhaps I’d be in line for a Nobel Peace Prize. Not so hard to imagine since others have won for lesser accomplishments. J

But I digress.

I think we’ve proven to ourselves in this country that intervening, though it may produce short-term gains, often has little long-term effects on how citizens of these nations truly relate to each other. Hatred runs deep, and what’s inbred in the culture from birth is almost impossible to overcome. If everything about your life is seen through the lenses of hatred for your fellow man, chances are that will continue.

Biblical scholars and historians believe Ishmael was the father of the Arab nations, just as his half-brother Isaac carried Abraham’s lineage down through the nation of Israel. An angel told Ishmael’s mother Hagar of the trouble he and his descendants would cause. It doesn’t take rocket science to study history and see this prediction came true.

So, is there even a solution to this humanitarian crisis in Syria?

It’s incumbent upon a blessed nation like the United States, and even more so for Christians, to not turn a blind eye to the suffering. We can’t merely watch a video of victims of chemical attacks with their skin half-burned off, trembling, eyes rolling back, and moaning in excruciating pain. Not to mention the 100,000 who’ve already been killed and scores others injured in this conflict. It’s not enough to feel sickened by the images and be heartbroken for Syrians and then return to the status quo in our lives.

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25:44-45

Regardless of your stance on events in Syria and our ability to change the course, we can still try to do for the “least of these.” Thousands of children have been caught in the crossfire of adult conflict.

A tangible, hands-on contribution from those financially able would support organizations like Samaritan's Purse, whose workers are on the ground in neighboring countries such as Northern Iraq, providing aid to thousands of Syrian refugees who’ve fled their homeland.

But alleviating the crisis to any degree must begin with prayer. You might ask: Prayer for who? And how will this help?

   ·   First and foremost, pray that God raises up a Syrian leader more gracious to his people than their current leader President Bashar al-Assad. Regardless of their beliefs, culture, or choices, Syrian citizens don’t deserve the hellish conditions they’re living in now.
   ·   Pray for our leadership in Washington to have a discerning spirit and seek God’s guidance and wisdom in whatever solution they deem necessary.
   ·   Pray that God opens a path for humanitarian and medical aid to get into Syria to help the folks who’ve been hurt by this two-year conflict.
   ·   Pray that in the midst of this conflict and others raging around the world, seen and unseen, victims will cry out to God as their source of comfort—and not seek the path of more conflict and revenge against their brothers.
   ·   Pray that God hastens the day that he sends Jesus back to the earth to begin the process of establishing His final Kingdom.

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. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5

What a glorious day that will be!

I can hear the least of these
Crying out so desperately
And I know we are the hands and feet
Of You, oh God

So, if You say move
It's time for me to follow through
And do what I was made to do
Show them who You are

'Cause I don't want to live like I don't care
I don't want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse

To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move, but I refuse
(by Benjamin Glover & Joshua David Wilson)

Prayer Requests:
If you have a prayer need, please share it in the comments. You can do so anonymously, if you wish, 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 last summer. Would you take a few moments to pray for these folks? Thanks!


©Laura Hodges Poole