Around Town: Susan Van Volkenburg A 9/11 Story September 9, 2016 11:09 AM By J.D. Ryan

You just sit and try to understand. But some things cannot be understood. Some paths are just too dark to see the other side, and once you have turned down the path there’s no going back. It’s dark and no one can take the journey for you. There is nothing but forward, though you do it with trembling and uncertainty. This journey is not of my choosing, but it is mine nonetheless.

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2016/09/09/around-town-susan-van-volkenburg-a-911-story/ 

Here is my story as shared by J. D. Ryan on CBS Radio KRLD 1080AM.

 

 

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Through the Fire

Imagine, if you will, that you are an Israelite in Jerusalem and the army of Assyria is encamped against your walls. All the nations around you have fallen. Jerusalem is the last city standing, your city, Zion, which God had promised to protect.

Isaiah 49:14 speaks of the people’s reaction:

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.”

Forsaken by God. Most of us have felt that way at one time or another. Even Jesus experienced this emotion when upon the cross He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

I have felt forsaken.

Tuesday morning, a day like any other. It was a beautiful fall day: the air fresh, the sun warm, and the skies clear. As always the children and I began with Bible study. The day’s subject was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In discussing the three being placed into the fiery furnace for their unwavering faith in God, I made the cryptic statement that no matter what happens in our life, even when we go through the fiery furnace, still we must follow the Lord. I did not know that at that very moment my own life would be put through the furnace and my words tested.

Flag over PentagonThe day was September 11, 2001. My life forever changed as my father was ripped from the world by terrorists. In that moment I felt forsaken. All that I had believed in, trusted in, was stripped out from under me. How could a benevolent God, a God who loves me, allow such a tragedy to happen knowing full well how this would wound me?

But hear what God spoke through Isaiah, the prophet:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)

He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands…

This is not just taking a pen and writing your name on His skin. You have been inscribed, that is, engraved. He has taken a blade and carved His palm, wounding His flesh so that forever He will bear the scars of your name upon His hands.

Not only does He know our name, but He bears our scars upon His flesh—forever.

I have journeyed down a dark and empty road: alone, abandoned, and forsaken. But I have found something along this desolate way: a beautiful truth. My foundation is sure…and I am not alone.

I think the key is in the word “through,” for we do go through, we do not stay in the furnace. There is an end to our trouble. For even as the three young men stood within the flames of the furnace, they were not alone, but a fourth stood beside them.

We all face trials. We have difficult times. God never promised us otherwise. In fact, He told us that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). But He did not leave us to travel this world without aid.

Listen what the Lord proclaims:

“I, even I, am He who comforts you.” (Isaiah 51:12)

“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Though God’s protection is not always for our bodies, it is a constant for our souls. And in the end, it is our final home that is most important. This mortal coil, which we cling to so ardently, is not what it is all about. Yet when one that is loved is taken, we cannot help but look back at what has been lost.

“But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared— The Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” (Isaiah 51:15-16)

We serve a powerful God. An all-knowing God. So what then can man do to me? For the keeper of my soul watches me. We do not have a God who looks on from the outside as we struggle along the way. But we have a God who enters with us into the midst of the fire. He walks the troubled path with us, taking us through to the other side. He is our God and we are His people, engraved upon his hand: a perpetual covenant between the Lord and His chosen.

So as you travel the journey of this earthly life, remember: you are not forsaken.

Susan Van VolkenburghSKU-000524494_COVER

SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN

 

Oncology Nurse turned homeschool educator, Susan Van Volkenburgh is an award winning author of Christian fiction and non-fiction books. After the death of her father on September 11, 2001, Susan began speaking of her experience. Her book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (A 9/11 story), recounts Susan’s loss and subsequent spiritual journey.

Born too late to experience antiquity first hand, Susan spends much of her time studying and teaching ancient history. Therefore, it seemed only natural that she should draw from the experience of grief and trauma to write THE STONE OF EBENEZER, Book 1: Trilogy of Kings Saga, a story of faith and restoration through the medium of Biblical fiction.

 

Three Nails

It is often said that bad things come in threes.Nails

Yet we see in scripture that the number three represents completeness.

Are there not three facets of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Three parts to the Tabernacle: the court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies?

Jonah was in the whale for three days. Jesus was in the tomb for three days.

The number resonates all through the Word of God. How then can we see the number three as a bad omen?

Yet, as I pondered this, it came to methe image of three nails. The vision stayed with me for weeks. Yet I could not put together what exactly God was saying. What was the significance of those three nails?

Three nails pierced the hands and feet of Jesus as he hung upon the cross. Three nails were used to crucify our Savior.

Slowly, my vision cleared. My eyes were opened, as again, I read the story of the crucifixion.

As the first nail bit into the flesh of Jesus’ palm, as the crowd taunted and jeered, He spoke this prayer:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34

He looked past the hammer, beyond the hand, and into the heart that was yet unclean. A heart that needed Him, for was not this His mission, to bring the lost to the Father. He forgave, and in so doing, He showed us our need and His redeeming love.

The second nail pierced through his other hand, and with the agony of the searing pain, he cried out:

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34

Here was the climax of Jesus’ life. All He had worked for unfolded in that desperate hour. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus not only bore our sins, but He became our sin. He experienced the full meaning of what it was to be human: completely and utterly separated from God. For where sin is, God cannot be. The gulf stretched before Jesus, and He was alone.

The final nail was driven into His feet, those precious feet where the tears of Mary had washed away the stains of His journey. It was in that final hour that the third prayer was lifted toward heaven:

“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Luke 23:46

Through the torment of His distress, Jesus surrendered to the will of God. He trusted the Father despite His circumstances. The Savior demonstrated to us all, that even in the midst of our trials, we are to have faith in the Lord. God is our salvation. God turned and reached across the void and took hold of Jesus.

“It is finished!” John 19:30

The Bride Price was paid. Yet, God had more to give. Three days later, within a dark and dismal tomb, life returned to Jesus. Death could not hold Him, even as death has no power over us!

But how can we conquer death?

Each point, each prayer, must pierce us, even to our very souls. We must be crucified with Christ.

There were three crosses on that first Good Friday. Two thieves hanging beside Jesus: one to the right and one to the left.

On one side, the thief blasphemed, taunting Jesus:

“If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” Luke 23:39

The other thief rebuked the first:

“We receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”

Here, as we all must do, he acknowledged his sin. He perceived his own guilt and the terrible gulf before him. So he surrendered to God, and spoke with a humble and honest heart:

“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Luke 23:41-42

As the thief confessed his belief that Jesus is the One who saves, Jesus looked at him with those loving eyes and spoke these words:

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

Today, we have a choice to make. We can either be as the first thief, and deny Christ; or we can be as the second thief, admit our fault and ask for God’s forgiveness.

Jesus showed us the waywith three nails and three prayers.

So what can three nails accomplish?

They can bridge the gulf between death and life. Save the lost. Transform hearts. Open minds. Free a captive soul.

Three nails and three prayers. The choice is yours.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

~ Susan

 

Reference: Robert C. Crosby, D.Min. “The One Jesus Loves”

 

 

The Story of Christmas : Part V

MAGI_bl_and_wh_following-starAfter Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, behold wise men, philosophers, priests, and astronomers, learned men of the Eastern nations, came to Jerusalem, to Herod. Now Herod the Great, the son of Antipater, being appointed by Rome was the king of Judea. In this day of our Lord’s birth the scepter had departed from Judah, a foreigner being upon David’s throne.

So the Magi came to the king and spoke, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? Long we have traveled to come to this land, for we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him. Is this not foretold?”

A star will come out of Jacob;

a scepter will rise out of Israel.

                        ~Numbers 24:17

“We have seen this omen of some remarkable event, a light that shines in a dark place. So we have come to seek out the source of this heavenly apparition, to learn what He has to teach us. It was His light that guided us to this place.”

The people who walked in darkness

Have seen a great light;

Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,

Upon them a light has shined.

                                    ~Isaiah 9:2

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, for his claim to the throne was illegitimate. Fear for his kingship grew as he pondered all the Magi spoke. For the king knew the prophecy well:

The scepter will not depart from Judah,

nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,

until the coming of the one to whom it belongs,

the one whom all nations will honor.

                                    ~Genesis 10:49

So Herod gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people, inquiring of them where the long expected Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;

For out of you shall come a Ruler

Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

                                  ~ Matthew 2:6

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

For often it is that wicked people conceal, under a mantle of deceit, their evil designs, cloaked beneath the appearance of pious ambition. And so it was fulfilled as the scriptures foretold, even as the new-born King lay within the stone-cradle, that the government should be upon His shoulder.

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star, which they had seen in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy, these Magi of the East, a noble witness of His divinity from heaven, and of His kingly estate, from strangers.

The Star, the harbinger of hope, led them on to the Christ Child. For any who seek the Blessed Savior, God will guide; even if for a time it seems the Light has gone out, yet holding fast, it will reappear, to direct all who look, in the way to the Redeemer, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)

As the wise men entered into the house, they saw the Child, great and beautiful, with Mary His mother. In heavenly homage they fell down upon their faces and worshiped Him, for they had found what they sought, the Christ, the King of kings.

These who were esteemed, cast down their high standing before Him who sits on the throne, and they worshiped Him who lives forever and ever, saying:

You are worthy, O Lord,

To receive glory and honor and power;

For You created all things,

And by Your will they exist and were created.

                                    ~ Revelation 4:11

And in the illumination of the Savior, they took the gifts that they possessed, and having opened them, laid them at the feet of the Master, as all must do who serve. In humble and lovely reverence they gave: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.Adoration-of-the-Magi-c_-1725

Gold as tribute to the King;

Frankincense, a fragrant aroma, an offering to God;

Myrrh, bitter herb, for embalming the dead.

King, Lord, Savior.

The One to reign, rule, and redeem.

~     ~     ~

“Hast thou not a heart, though unworthy of Him, dark, hard, and foul?

Give it to him as it is, and be willing that He use and dispose of it as it pleases Him;

He will take it, and will make it better,

and thou shalt never repent having given it to Him.

He shall frame it to His own likeness,

and will give thee Himself, and be thine forever.”

~ Matthew Henry

~     ~     ~

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh,

Justified in the Spirit,

Seen by angels,

Preached among the Gentiles,

Believed on in the world,

Received up in glory.

                        ~1 Timothy 3:16

Have a Blessed Christmas

~ Susan

The Story of Christmas : Part IV

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, and the sky closed dark and still, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” In simplicity of devoutness and faith, they forsook all, those shepherds to whom the angels spoke, and went to find the Savior. With eagerness of spirit they came in haste to the place of where they were told. The path was dark after the glory displayed by the heavenly messengers, yet they ventured on into the swarthy night, until at last, they came upon a stable hewn into the side of the hill. Slowly they peered into the illuminated camber, eager, yet with trepidation, as the anticipation pulled at their hearts.

As they entered into the room, there they found Mary, and Joseph, and just as the angels had said, the Babe lying in a manger. When they looked upon the Child, they knew it was He, the One foretold. This new-born King, this Messiah, he looked through time directly into their hearts. And in the eyes of the Christ Child, they saw the abiding love that would suffer all things for them and on bended knee they fell and worshiped Him.

Now when the shepherds had seen Him, their hearts were full. Abounding in hope and faith, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. Not being able to contain all that they had seen, with exultation overflowing, they went out proclaiming the day of the Lord. And all those who heard it marveled at what was told them by the shepherds.

But Mary gathered all that had happened, all that was said, and placing them in her heart, pondered and cherished them. Delicate and beautiful, a mother’s heart, that kept them, resolved them, locked away in her very being, all those things respecting her child. Treasured up in her memory, she carried them always until the time would come for all to be revealed.

Then the shepherds returned to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, of the Babe in the manger, of the Christ Child that had come.

~ Susan

The Story of Christmas: Part III

shepherds-see-new-star-39535-galleryNow in that same country, through the watches of the night, there were shepherds tending their flocks. The lonely melody of the flute floated through the dark sky as a shepherd boy soothed the sheep with his song, lulling the flock into a torpid lassitude. The glittering orbs of the starlit sky winked down upon the hapless boys who looked well to their charge. As the migratory flock rested upon a bed of green grass, a stillness settled over the watch fires.

With tremulous power the heavens unfurled, the night sky aflame in glory. With shattering opulence, behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, His glory rebounding. In the presence of the magnificent splendor, the shepherds trembled, all their sin laid bare before them and they fell upon their faces in fear and doubt.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, both wonderful and amazing to behold, which will be to all people.”

With trepidation, the shepherd boys lifted their eyes to look upon the messenger of the Lord. In the watchfulness of his beauty they despaired. Yet there was something in his voice which drew courage from their souls as they listened to the words spoken.

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord; He is the Good Shepherd foretold, the Messiah spoken of by the prophets, the anointed of the Lord: Prophet, Priest, and King. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

By three tokens you shall know Him: The Babe, the swaddle, and the manger.

In this manner you shall find the Child, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain. Amazing contrast there shall be, for it was by this birth the Savior of all has chosen to come.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

that though He was rich,

yet for your sakes He became poor,

that you through His poverty might become rich.

                        ~2 Corinthians 8:9

For pride is the character of all the children of Adam, but humility the mark of the Son of God. By humility Christ comes to reign, for it is by these means only, one may enter into His kingdom.

Then suddenly on high, the heavenly vision all encompassing, ruptured the sky. Oh, magnificent appellation! A multitude of the heavenly host, heralds of the new-born King, descended from on high, who compass the majesty of God round and filled the air with lofty strains, “The way of peace is thrown open to all people, by reconciling the world to God by His atonement.”

The angelic beings transferring their exalted station, bent to the poor earth and with pure voices proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

And as the morning stars sang together, the foundation of man’s soul was laid; the cornerstone of man’s salvation set in the incarnation of the Son of God, inducing man to lay down the weapons of rebellion and to submit his soul to God’s redeeming love. (Albert Barnes)

~ Susan

The Story of Christmas: Part II

ArtBook__029_029__JosephAndMaryTravelToBethlehem____And it came to pass in the fullness of time that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. Judea, being a province of the Roman Empire was pressed to respond to the mandate. So all went, as ordained, to be enrolled in the census; everyone to his own city, to the place of his birth, to be counted according to the will of Caesar.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, to the city of David, to Bethlehem, the house of bread as it was called.  Bread made from the stalks of grain that sustain man from day to day, for without bread there is no life. So Joseph went because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

It was there in the city of Bethlehem, within the hills of Judea, that the Bread of Life should come forth, to provide salvation for a hungry world; the bread which came down from heaven, and gives life to the whole earth. For the world was hungry. He came to give us our daily bread, life giving nourishment for our soul. Bread broken for His people.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrata,

Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,

Yet out of you shall come forth to Me

The One to be Ruler in Israel,

Whose goings forth are from of old,

From everlasting.”

                                    ~ Micah 5:2

So the prophet spoke, yet these two weary travelers, Joseph and Mary with him, had little thought that their very journey was in keeping with the scriptures; that in going forth to Bethlehem, they were in fact fulfilling what was foretold, that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Christ.

Bethlehem, a city bustling with people, travelers all, who like Joseph, had left hearth and home to venture forth to the land of their heritage. And like him, they crowded into the city already bursting with people, filling every inn, every home that could take them in, until at last, no more could be received. Evening had come upon them. Firelight illuminated the dwellings that lined the dusty streets. The smell of bread and roasted meat rose to inflame their empty stomachs, as Joseph and his betrothed, overwhelmed with weariness, searched in vain for a place to stay the night. “No room,” was the message at every door.

Exhausted, Mary struggled as the discomfort in her body grew, for the days were completed that she should be delivered. Though calm for the sake of his beloved, fear grew within the heart of Joseph as he, with desperate effort, attempted to provide for the safe delivery of mother and child.

Then, in mercy, an inn keeper’s wife, seeing the couple in their distress, took them to the stable, a place where the animals of travelers were kept. It was nothing more than a sheepfold, a stable of stone, a rock-cave carved into the side of a hill. But it was warm and dry and there was fresh straw.

So it was that Mary brought forth her firstborn Son, the hope and glory of all lands. Wrapping Him in swaddling clothes, she laid Him in a manger, a feeding trough of beasts. In this lowly estate, the King of kings, entered into the world, clothed in the raiment of humanity, born to wear not a gilded diadem, but a crown of thorns.

~ Susan