For the past eight years, hubby and I have been praying about our next "homestead". As we continue to grow in age, we would like to find a home with first floor living; master bedroom, laundry, kitchen, etc., on the first floor and a garage that leads directly into the kitchen so we don't have to haul groceries up a flight of steps. But to our chagrin, we are part of the aging "Baby Boomer" generation. And do you know what that means? Every other Baby Boomer in the world (and we are a very large collective group) is on the prowl for the same type of homestead. With the economic term of need vs. want factoring in, the housing market for this particular type of home has increased astronomically along with the price tag!
Of course, this has not made for happy campers at the White establishment. We have even begun looking in various states; Ohio, where the daughter and family lives; Virginia, where my mom is located in a nursing home; North Carolina, because it is an attractive state and has better weather; Florida, where we enjoy winters, but not sure we desire permanent residence quite yet or Pennsylvania, where the son continues to abide and friends from 36 1/2 years are mostly located. But guess what is happening in each of those states? You guessed it! Baby Boomers are retiring there as well and are looking for the same home conveniences.
Being well aware of the potential problem staring us in the face, we are staying put for the time being. If you have heard the age old saying, "When God closes a door He opens a window" it appears we're running out of windows and have encountered a bunch of walls (doors sometimes open, walls not so much). So my next step is to simply pray that God would have me focus on seeing the windows (blessings) I've been given and stop concentrating on those walls (missed opportunities, confusion on where to settle next and what each potential house has and doesn't have).
I just know and have faith God will introduce hubby and me to the right place at the crossroads of cathedral ceilings and wall to wall windows! Recently I heard a well known preacher explaining all the adventures we encounter in life (windows vs. walls) leads to the ultimate plan that God has in store for us. He added that it doesn't make any difference what age we are and where we stand on the continuum of life. Look at Abraham, Moses, Sarah and on the list goes. At the ages that most would be collecting pensions and taking life easy, God continues to use us for His glory (I'm really hoping it's not giving birth again). Bottom line....I don't think hubby and I have found a new abode because God isn't ready to reveal it yet. So, we pray and wait and wait and pray. But from this day forward, I'm putting my hope and trust in an amazing window where the Will of God is revealed and pray for a stronger faith not to dwell on seemingly immoveable walls! After all, nothing is impossible with our God!
Father God, thank you for the opportunity hubby and I have had to walk through some amazing homes in the past months. We have prayed for clarity and so far that hasn't occurred. We know you are an orderly Creator God and often it's us complicating your plan by not hearing and adhering to your voice. We pray when you will speak we will hear and your plan will unfold easily before us. In Jesus' name, Amen!
If you are experiencing a bit of what's happening in our township, you are encountering detours left and right. It appears very little debriefing is transpiring between paving companies and various electric/construction companies concerning where they will be working and what will happen to the residents needing access to their homes. Add to that confusion the weekly garbage collectors, mail delivery carts and Fed Ex/UPS trucks and you've got some major delays.
Today I came across a book of quotes that I use in my craft projects and my eyes fell on this particular one written below. Sort of made me sit back and take a deep breath. There are so many in the world today with dire problems and concerns. So what is the problem with sitting in a line of cars waiting for the flag person to give you the go ahead? Use those moments to pray, listen to calming music on the radio, observe the beauty of this season and just be thankful. That might aid us in becoming "happy" as the quote describes.
The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
Surviving the Fires of Life
Thought for the Day: 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego has always amazed me especially when I first heard it as a child in Sunday School. I didn’t have nightmares about men burning in a furnace after hearing the story. Why? Because I had been taught when these brave men encountered the fiery furnace for believing in God and not denying Him before the King, the Lord actually came and walked in the furnace with them. Even as a child, I was comforted.
The third chapter of Daniel is one that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Taken from their defeated homeland of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar due to their youthful strength, it was the King’s intention to teach them the ways of Babylon. The story tells us from scripture:
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility--4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
Sadly, the names Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are not their given Jewish names, but their Babylonian names. The King decided to give them foods and beverages available to royalty in order to increase their strength and ability to learn. But they refused the King’s food and drink and asked instead to be given vegetables and water for the next ten days and then compare them to the others being given the King’s provisions. Of course, at the conclusion of the ten days, the young Israelite men looked superior to those eating the King’s portions.
But the day approached when they were expected to bow down and worship an image made at King Nebuchadnezzar’s request. The consequence for not doing so was to be thrown into a fiery furnace. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not comply the King was furious, probably due to their non-compliance reasoning. Scripture reads, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
So, the King decided to give a few additional directives. “He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.”
But what happened next is the most amazing part of the story.
24 “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.”
Why would I list so many verses of scripture? Because the story is just too good to adlib! Here’s why. These young men had no idea of the final result when they ignored a mighty King’s edict. Oh, they had probably heard about the fiery furnace, but they had made up their minds they would not abandon their belief in God. Regardless of the outcome, they were ready to die for their faith in God.
Did you read the part where the soldiers that bound Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were killed due to the intensity of the fire? And yet as the King sat back to watch them burn to death, he was given a sight he probably remembered for the rest of his life on earth. Four men were walking around in that fire. King Nebuchadnezzar commented that the men “looks like a son of the gods”….little did he know it was the Son of God!
Here’s another part of the story that has come to mean a lot to me. They came out of that furnace not even smelling like smoke. And still from my childhood to adulthood, that has stuck like glue to my mainframe. Here’s why. In 2003 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a tumor removed and had to undergo radiation treatments. The tumor was located on the left side of my body not far from my heart. I had been counseled before the radiation began which was to be given five days a week for six weeks that my skin could experience a burning. Being blonde and blue-eyed, I figured my chances would be higher for burning, but if I could not do consecutive treatments and had to take a break, I would need to have the treatments begin all over again.
That’s when I received a note from a dear friend with these verses attached. Taken from Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
I made that my verse each day as I lay in a room all alone with the radiation machine running. I prayed that God would lay His hand over me, so I would not be burned, and He would protect me as He did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Just as those men did not even smell of smoke I asked that my body not be burned by the radiation and He would be with me. Even though I had some traces of irritation, I was able to go through my thirty treatments with an additional three boosters, as they are called, with no lapse in treatment. That is a miracle of modern day just as in the days of old. So, I consider Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego my personal friends whose story gave me hope and courage to face a fiery furnace of my own. I look forward to swapping adventures with them one day in heaven!
Closing Comments: We have all experienced a fire or two or three in this life. As you reflect on what you have undergone, did you rely on the Lord to walk with you through the circumstance?
What enabled you to maintain resilience in your faith? Did you waver? What caused your hesitation?
In our Christian walk, what might we entertain doing to help in those times of doubt, concern or shaky faith moments?
How might we assist others during times of uncertainty?
Lord, thank you for these great stories of old that we can bring with us on our journey. They represent an ointment of balm in times of skepticism, questioning and reservation regarding our faith. Help us, Father, not to ever give up, but to be strong and of courage as Moses reminded the Israelites when he was nearing the end of his earthly journey and turning it over to Joshua. Times change, people change, situations change, but you, O Lord, never change. You are not like sifting sand. You are our Rock, our Tower, our Refuge! In whose name I pray, Amen!
Job, Sitting in the Ashes
Thought for the Day: “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?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” Job 2:8-10
Each time I read the account of Job I am faced with puzzling questions. I don’t understand why Satan was allowed to inflict such devastation on Job’s life. After all, Job was a man of faith, a man who believed in God and lived to bring honor to God. Then one day Satan comes before God. God asks where Satan has been, and Satan only offers he has been roaming around the earth. God then brings up Job. God is proud of this man of faith and describes Job as a blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. Satan’s deduction of Job’s loyalty was simple, Job is only worshiping you and giving you his full allegiance because he has all the wealth, health and happiness one could possibly endure.
Now, I do not believe Satan has any power over the God of the Universe. But God knows everything there is to know about each one of us. Psalm 139 is clearly a testament to this fact. God knew Job’s heart and dedication and regardless of what Satan was allowed to do involving Job’s family or even his physical body, God knew Job would remain faithful…and that Job did.
Do I understand this story of God allowing all these incredibly hard losses to Job in children, workers, livestock, and material wealth to transpire because of Job’s stellar faith? Can I fathom how a man would be sanctioned by the God of the Universe to suffer because of belief in that same God? To be perfectly honest, I've been a Christian for a long time and I still get stumped and scratch my head as I ask God to reveal hard answers on a child-like level so that I might get the picture. God has infinite wisdom and with the finite mind I have been graciously given, how can I even begin to explain the ways of the Almighty?
I like to deduce it like this...when our little ones were babies and we tried to communicate on their level, we didn't usher in concepts and dialogue they would not understand. We simply smiled and used soothing sounds often reading to them and telling them about the colors, shapes or animals on the pages. Even then they didn't have the conceptual wisdom to comprehend. They just loved being held and given attention.
Likewise, we are babes in Christ. He can't explain all of creation because his knowledge is far beyond anything we can perceive. He reveals life in bite-sized pieces according to our spiritual growth. As we grow in our knowledge of him, we are given more insight. But we continuously question God's intentions as if he owes us any explanation at all. Honestly, it reminds me of children who demand, "I can do it myself!" Shouldn't we at least stop and thank God for what we have been given?
So, here's my meager explanation on the story of Job. Believe it or not, scripture tells us that God doesn't allow us to be tested or tempted beyond what we can endure. (I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can ear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”) Of course, I believe that pertains to believers and that's what Job was....he loved, served and believed in God. But if you look at the story, Job was living a great life. Satan believed the only reason Job was giving any time or allegiance to God was because he was living a "charmed" life...if you will. God knew that wasn't true, so he allowed Satan to test Job.
You can call it unfair, totally out of the realm of reasonableness, but Job withstood the terrible things that happened to him and in the end was doubly blessed. Why do I still believe in a God that would do this? Because I, too, have felt suffering. Not like Job, of course, and I would never equate anything I have faced in life thus far with Job's ordeal. But here's a truth I've come to acknowledge, God can remove every pebble in the path of my journey. He can make my life one of total Cinderella adventures and zip lining blessings. But instead of being a Cinderella, I often feel as though I'm walking barefoot on a rocky road that has no smooth places for my feet to rest. Every time I feel as though I'm getting a break from the cuts and bruises of those stones, another one shows up. However, this I know...God has His eye on me. He knows where I am at all times and what is happening in my little corner of the world. He is Omnipresent, he's in all places at all times. That in itself is an awesome thought far beyond anything I can understand. If I was never desperate for God's presence, would I give him more than a passing thought? (Psalm 18:36 “You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.”)
If you read through the book of Job, you will discover, as all who are tested through sufferings can testify, Job's faith increased, and his spiritual resolve grew even greater. And that, my friend, is the goal. Greater faith, greater perseverance and a greater witness for the Lord. Why? Because we often learn through the hardships God is greater than our circumstances. (James 1:2-4 “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.”)
Is suffering something we need to experience so spiritual growth can occur? Maybe not, but I will share when the hard things of life happen, and I have no other place to turn, God has always been there, and the result is a greater trust in who he is and what he can do. God is Omnipotent....all powerful, He's Omniscient....all knowing, and He is Omnipresent…in all places at all times. We need to realize there are circumstances in life we will never fully grasp so for now, we pray that God will help us face whatever each day brings and that He will grant us the fortitude to surrender our will for His! There is coming a day when suffering will be over, and our path will render a smoothness for our feet never before felt because it was handcrafted by the Lord himself!
- Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.