Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Doing The Rarest Thing In The World

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”― Oscar Wilde

It’s not every day you’ll find me quoting Oscar Wilde, but in this instance, his words make perfect sense.

I’ve blogged before about my approach to life and how growing up in a large family, where perhaps death and tragedy seem more common, has a lot to do with my sense of urgency toward life. I over commit, have trouble telling people no, and loathe wasting time. To merely exist is unacceptable. Is this necessarily a bad thing?

I have six siblings, so my parents’ home overflows when we’re all there at the same time with our children and grandchildren. My dad has fourteen siblings, so an extended Hodges family reunion has well over a hundred people, though empty spots exist from each generation. My aunts and uncles are well into their 70s and 80s (one just turned 90), yet many passed away young, and the trend has remained into my generation.

Cemetery on my return visit in 2011
My earliest childhood memory is trudging through a cemetery in the late 1960s, my little legs straining to keep up with the adults and older children, as infant twins were buried in tiny coffins. I hadn’t even started school, and the enormity and finality of death were thrust upon me. Life is so different now where parents go to extremes to shield their children from the natural process of dying. We’re doing our kids a disservice.

But I digress.

My point is that as I’ve watched the young and old alike pass from this world to the next, I’ve often heard the phrase “life is short.” And it is. Just in the past decade the number we’ve lost in my family is in the double digits, most relatively young, some my age or younger. We treasure our reunions and don’t take a single one for granted. We understand when we hug each other good-bye, it may be for the last time.

My dad and his siblings
(George in background)
My cousin George, a pillar of the Hodges family, and his wife Sabrina have hosted the reunion for years on their sprawling property graced by a beautiful wood home with a porch that wraps around the entire house. It’s a serene environment that bustles with activity for the day and then winds down to a quiet evening for the handful staying overnight. My husband, kids, and I have been in that handful relaxing on the porch, watching the sun set, and eating peanut butter pie. One year, we enjoyed a thunderstorm after sunset. We reveled in the thunderclaps and rain since we were in a severe drought back home in South Carolina.

George talking with Josh
(Sabrina in red shirt in background)
George once spent more than an hour at the end of this long day talking with my son Josh about being a police officer. A couple years later, Josh shared that he’d chosen to become a firefighter instead. George and Sabrina listened with rapt attention and asked questions about his training and future. I’ve encountered very few people who listen like that, especially to kids. They have a passion for kids, evidenced by the fact that George was a school resource officer for years until he retired last year, and Sabrina is a school principal.

Playing a water game in the hot
July weather in Florida
Hodges are headstrong and often set in our ways but passionate about our beliefs and how we treat others. As apparent is the urgency with which we live. So after New Year’s, the family starts anticipating the reunion on Fourth of July weekend in Hilliard, Florida. The family is so extensive and spread out around the country that this year we even have a FB page to make sure no one gets left out. 

The reunion was part of my exchange with George on my birthday almost two weeks ago on Facebook. 

A little more than twelve hours later, George began suffering strokes and was airlifted to a hospital in Jacksonville in critical condition. I was dumbfounded when I heard. This was unfathomable. I couldn’t believe it, yet at the same time, I could. Life is fragile. We fool ourselves on a daily basis by thinking otherwise.

Yet, we know who holds each day in His hand. Nothing dumbfounds God or catches Him by surprise. We simply have to make the most of each day in service to Him, and trust Him for the future.

No one holds the golden ticket to immortality on this earth. Our only hope for living forever into eternity is through the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Each week I ask if you have a prayer request you’d like to share. This week, I’d like you to pray for George and Sabrina, his elderly mother, siblings, and children. Pray specifically for George’s recovery and wisdom for his medical team as they make decisions for his future.

How may I pray for you? Please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

God bless you all,


©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Escaping Life's Superficial Trap

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young.” Psalm 84:3a   

How do you like the photo of my little friends on the left? Their mama and daddy built this nest anticipating their arrival. The nest was intricately constructed with beautiful flowers, moss, grass, and twigs. It’s in a precarious place atop my porch light, but apparently, the birds feel safe because they return every spring to make a new home. Only when the front door opens do they flee, shrieking in terror that “something” almost got them. 
The birds start singing every morning around 3:00 a.m. when they imagine the first hint of daylight. I say imagine because it’s still pretty dark to me. 

“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

One of the first things I realize upon awakening is the blessing of another day. I envy the bird’s ability to sing this to the world each morning. Often before I’m even fully awake, I began to talk to God about the day ahead. 

Sometimes humans dwell in an apparent safe place. We’ve created our perfect nest lined with beautiful things, content until something threatens our earthly trappings. While we shriek about superficial terror, we often hit the snooze button when it comes to spiritual threats.

Which would matter more?
     If my electricity were off for 24 hours or my access to God denied for 24 hours?
     If I lost my car keys or lost my Bible?
     If I were denied a promotion or a family member refused salvation?
     If the baseball game I attended went to extra innings or Sunday morning church service ran late?

The things we consider important in this temporal life are often nothing more than superficial security blankets. In fact, they may even have us in bondage. Just like the birds, we often repeat our mistakes while believing "this" time we'll be safe, when the only true security we have is inside the will of God.

The bird’s nest, which was so beautiful in the spring, deteriorated after it served its purpose. By autumn, it no longer existed. Likewise, our only lasting treasures are stored up in heaven for eternity (Matthew 6:20).

What earthly thing or situation has you trapped? Or perhaps is threatening the work God has called you to do? God already knows about it. He’s just waiting for you to ask for help.

If you have a prayer request, leave it in the comment section below or e-mail me confidential requests. My contact info is under the heading marked “Talk to Me.” I’d love to pray for you!
God bless,
©Laura Hodges Poole

Revised post from archives—originally published June 6, 2012.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Are You Turning Stones to Bread?

“The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:3 

In our quest to faithfully serve God, the danger is in becoming too involved in worthy causes that detract from our individual ministry purpose.

Feeding the hungry is a good thing, but has God called you to spend several hours a week in a soup kitchen? Serving the homeless is a noble cause, but has God called you to volunteer at a homeless shelter?

After Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness following his baptism, he was hungry. The first thing Satan tempted Jesus with was food. Turning stones to bread would have not only solved Jesus’ hunger but many others. Surely he was sympathetic to the needy in his community. Yet Jesus refused Satan’s offer.

Jesus didn’t lack empathy for the hungry. Throughout the Gospels, we see examples of Jesus feeding thousands rather than sending them on their way after he preached. But eradicating hunger in the world wasn’t Jesus’ ministry.

Satan will present service opportunities, which are charitable, yet divert from a more important ministry in that moment. If we’re not careful (or prayerful), we’ll jump at every opportunity to serve, even if it diminishes our capacity to fulfill the role God called us to.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” Matthew 13:24b-26 

The flower on the right is a daucus pusillus or, in lay terms, Wild Carrot or Rattlesnake Weed. According to legend, it can be used as a poultice for a rattlesnake bite. Weeds serve as food in the animal kingdom. Like many weeds, this one produces a beautiful flower.

Weeds can be beautiful or even beneficial while at the same time destructive. Left unchecked, they choke out vital crops for man. The same is true when we participate in activities, however worthy, when we’re called to do something else for that season in our life.

The purpose of the enemy sowing weeds is to reduce the Kingdom harvest.

Are you busy turning stones to bread while the enemy sows weeds in your ministry field? Is the Kingdom work you were called to do getting your leftover time and talent?

If you feel overworked, overcommitted, or stressed, ask God for clarity in your ministry. Perhaps you’re right where He wants you for spiritual growth. Perhaps not. He might point you in a different direction.

How may I pray for you today? Please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. My contact info is under the heading above marked “Talk to Me.” While you’re here, would you lift up those who leave prayer requests, as well as those on the prayer list at the top of the blog?

God bless,

© Laura Hodges Poole 

Stones image courtesy of suphakit73/ 

Post from archives—originally published May 29, 2012.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What Are You Giving Up?

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Colossians 2:20-23 

I love the Easter season even more than Christmas. No frenzied store sales, excessive buying, or parties to attend. Just a breathless anticipation of spring and the celebration of the resurrection of my Savior. There’s a feeling of rejuvenation each year as daffodils push their little yellow heads up toward the warm sun, Bradford pear trees sprout beautiful white blooms, and the grass suddenly turns green as life begins anew. Christians mark the beginning of the countdown to Easter with a period known as Lent.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never given up anything for Lent. At least not that I can remember. My son once gave up pizza as young teen, and it was a long 40 days! J Growing up as a Methodist, we had little offering booklets with 40 slots to insert a quarter for each day of Lent. We placed our filled booklets in the offering plate on Easter. Or at least that was the idea. We often didn’t have two quarters to rub together, so filling that booklet was a challenge.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the self-denial that marks the Lenten season. I can understand giving up cigarettes or excessive eating or something like that since our bodies are the temple of the Lord. If you manage to give up a vice for 40 days, your chances of sticking with it beyond that are really good. Even giving up a television show that consumes time that could be spent in prayer or Bible study is an excellent idea. But chocolate or the other things I hear mentioned seem more like what Martin Luther fought against in the time preceding Reformation. In other words, self-sacrifice that somehow makes us feel more righteous or more of a Christian isn’t what God wants from us. He wants our love and devotion and, as Christians, to reflect that love into the world around us 365 days a year.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’ve chosen to participate in self-denial during the Lenten season, that’s between you and God. He’s the only one who knows your motives and what glory your actions will bring to Him. I pray that your actions do just that.

Maybe an even better idea than self-denial would be to give more of ourselves to Christ. What can I do to bring more glory to Him? To bring others to Christ? Or rework my schedule so I’m spending more time in prayer and Bible study? Or maybe volunteer my time to a worthwhile cause that will reflect Christ's love to those I'm serving?

My ultimate goal this Lenten season is to continue to become more like Christ in order to further His Great Commission. As I think of it in that light, a certain amount of self-sacrifice will be a necessary part of my success.

Have you decided to give up something for Lent? If not, how do you plan to mark the Lenten season?

Meanwhile, if you have a prayer request, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you. While you’re here, would you lift up others in prayer who leave comments? A permanent prayer list is also at the top of the blog.

This heartbreaking prayer request was shared last week on our prayer list:
Please pray for little 2 year old Katie Barkley. She was in an auto accident, both C1 & C2 broken, spinal cord stretched, blood clot on brain (left side of brain is dead), and a stroke. Doctors are telling the family Katie will be a quadriplegia - from neck down. This is so difficult for us to believe - since Katie was an active 2 year old - playing, watching TV & enjoying life to the fullest...PLEASE PRAY FOR KATIE…Our hearts are broken...If you want to follow her on social media - please join us on FB at "Pray for little 2 year old Katie Barkley." Thank you.

Please join me in prayer for Katie and her family. If you’re reading this blog post, know that you’re in my prayers today, as well.

God bless,

Would you like a devotion delivered to your e-mail each day of Lent? Sign up at Gateway Bible.
Additional reading on Lent: 

Bible/cross/crown image courtesy of lamnee/
Daffodils image courtesy of Arvind Balaramen/
Praying image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

©Laura Hodges Poole