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.

 

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I Have Not Arrived

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have not arrived

For the journey has just begun.

Oft I am weak and weary,

In the shadows, am undone.

–     –     –

I am a work in progress

The destination still in play.

Regret and disappointment

Often mar the traveled way.

–     –     –

Perfection far exceeds me

Far down the path it dwells.

Never grasping, always reaching,

All ‘round the shadow swells.

–     –     –

But in the distant twilight

Hanging in the shady nether,

A lamp is waiting yonder,

Reaching out beyond the tether.

–     –     –

Birds of carrion hover ‘round me,

At my heels, nip fear and galling.

Stumbling forward, I blunder onward,

All the while, the Master’s calling.

–     –     –

Words of comfort Jesus whispers,

In my ear, throughout the day.

“Stand thou fast and do not falter,

Darkness ends, for dawn holds sway.”

–     –     –

“Out of sorrow, hope is springing,

From your weakness, strength abounds.

Ever press you forth to journey,

Each step moves t’ward holy ground.”

–     –     –

“Soon the trials of life be over.

Then the day will e’er be won.

Rest awaits you ‘round the corner,

But for now, keep moving on.”

–     –     –

I strain to see the far illumine

I can almost hear them sing

Crying out in joyful tribute,

“Holy, holy is the King.”

–     –     –

Rest awaits me ‘round the corner,

So for now, I am revived.

I am a work in progress,

For I have not arrived.

~ Susan

 

Take My Hand

The Hand of Jesus

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” Matthew 19: 13-15

This Sunday, our pastor told a joke and it went something like this:

 

Once there was a man who, while walking along a road, fell into a ditch.

A Pharisee came by and seeing the man, said, “My son, you are unclean.” And he walked to the other side, leaving the man in the ditch.

Next, a Presbyterian came along the road and said, “You were predestined to fall into that ditch.” He walked on by.

Then a Methodist was traveling down the street, and noticed the man in the ditch. He walked over to the fellow and, with pity, looked down at him. “Praise God in the bad times. I will pray for you brother.” And he continued on down the road.

A Charismatic followed soon after, and said, “Brother, just believe you are out of the ditch and it will be so.” And he walked on by.

A fundamentalist journeyed along the road, and seeing the man, said to him, “You deserve to be in that ditch.” And he, too, continued on.

And so the list continued, until Jesus walked over to the ditch. With love, He reached out to the man and said, “Come, take my hand.”

And He lifted the man out of the ditch.

(No disrespect intended to any denominational group)

 

All kidding aside, it left me with this thought: how complicated we make faith. As we try to figure out why difficulties happen, or what we did to deserve them, Jesus has His hand extended to us. He is willing to help us out of our present situation. May we always see His helping hand through the mire of man-made dogma.

Jesus offers Grace. All we need do is take hold of it.

~ Susan

I Have Not Arrived

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have not arrived

For the journey has just begun.

Oft I am weak and weary,

In the shadows, am undone.

–     –     –

I am a work in progress

The destination still in play.

Regret and disappointment

Often mar the traveled way.

–     –     –

Perfection far exceeds me

Far down the path it dwells.

Never grasping, always reaching,

All ‘round the shadow swells.

–     –     –

But in the distant twilight

Hanging in the shady nether,

A lamp is waiting yonder,

Reaching out beyond the tether.

–     –     –

Birds of carrion hover ‘round me,

At my heels, nip fear and galling.

Stumbling forward, I blunder onward,

All the while, the Master’s calling.

–     –     –

Words of comfort Jesus whispers,

In my ear, throughout the day.

“Stand thou fast and do not falter,

Darkness ends, for dawn holds sway.”

–     –     –

“Out of sorrow, hope is springing,

From your weakness, strength abounds.

Ever press you forth to journey,

Each step moves t’ward holy ground.”

–     –     –

“Soon the trials of life be over.

Then the day will e’er be won.

Rest awaits you ‘round the corner,

But for now, keep moving on.”

–     –     –

I strain to see the far illumine

I can almost hear them sing

Crying out in joyful tribute,

“Holy, holy is the King.”

–     –     –

Rest awaits me ‘round the corner,

So for now, I am revived.

I am a work in progress,

For I have not arrived.

~ Susan

All I Ask

All I ask is You be with me;

Stand beside me, linger near.

Please stay with me, ever present;

Do not leave me here alone.

 

All I ask is keep me standing;

Do not let me taste the fall.

Do not let the world abate me,

Keep me in Your loving arms.

 

To Thee I will be faithful,

No matter what the cost.

All I ask is to be near me,

Keep me ever in Your arms.

 

Many trials I have ventured,

Over hill and through the vale.

Troubled waters have assailed me,

Yet Your Spirit did avail.

 

In this world we shall be battered,

And the billows roughly roll.

Yet to Thee I will be faithful,

No matter what the cost.

 

So I’ll sing to You Thy praises,

For Your help is always near.

Come to me, be ever present,

Hold me close and chase my fear.

~ Susan

 

 

 

SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story)

Available Now…    

Life for Susan Van Volkenburgh was good. She was often told that God had placed a golden star upon her life. Then tragedy struck. On September 11, 2001 at 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 plummeted into the Pentagon, taking the lives of 184 innocent people. One of them was Susan’s father, Stanley R. Hall. At that moment, everything changed for Susan. Everything she knew, everything she ever believed in, came crashing down. Her life began to unravel.

How could she face God in light of all that had happened? How could she ever trust Him again? Wasn’t God supposed to protect His own? Nothing made sense anymore.

This ten-year journey through the desert, through a land where God was silent, was a time of trial and of spiritual awakening. Could faith endure in the face of so great a loss, so large a betrayal?

Transcending the events of September 11, this spiritual odyssey moves through the mire of grief and loss, to question the very motives and promises of God. As Susan asks the tough questions, can the silent resolve of her own father speak to her from beyond the veil? Is there a place for faith when God has let you down?

Susan Van Volkenburgh’s debut book was chosen as a finalist in the 2011 Women of Faith writing contest. Her honest and revealing narrative portrays the anguish suffered when tragedy strikes, leaving the remnants of a life changed. With lyrical inflection, Susan takes the audience through the pain of grief and loss to a place of resolution.

Book Information:

Title: Silent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down

Author: Susan Van Volkenburgh

Format: Perfect Bound

ISBN: 9781449743383

Publication Date: 5/17/2012

Pages: 137

Price: $13.95

Size: 6” x 9”

Available from: WestBow Press

To order: WestBow Press, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles

What’s In Your Lint Trap?

So, I was blowing my hair dry the other day, when I realized that I was not experiencing the full power that my hair dryer should be providing. Then it struck me, “Look at the lint trap.” I flipped my hair dryer over and saw that indeed, the lint trap was full of that white fuzzy stuff that appears out of nowhere. I ran my fingers over the webbed wire mesh that covers the inner workings of the hair dryer, pulling firmly until I removed as much lint as I could. Satisfied with the job well done, I resumed blowing my hair dry. Wow! What power! I was able to quickly finish the task, amazed at the power that emanated from my ordinary hair dryer. I had no idea that all this time I had access to so much power, if only I would have removed the lint sooner.

Then the thought crossed my mind, how much our lives are like this hair dryer. Here we have a great source of power and yet we do not utilize it. How many times in life we struggle without success because we just do not have the strength and fortitude to finish. We struggle under the weight of adversity, unable to carry the burden, for we are weak and do not know how to proceed.

Here we are as Christians, a favored people, promised to be empowered with the full strength of the Holy Spirit, yet we are unable to utilize that power. Why is that? Could it be that our lint trap is full? That the power of God’s Spirit is obstructed in our lives by the lint we carry with us? What is in your life that clogs your power? Is it busyness? Worry? Past trauma? Unforgiveness? Laziness? Striving for success? No matter what it is, if it is obstructing the air flow of your spiritual life, it needs to be removed so that the Spirit can imbue you with power on high. We have access to an unlimited source of power, a power that in its full force can create worlds out of nothingness, can conquer the destructive powers of sin and death. So look to your lint trap. Clean out what clogs your life and access the full power that is promised to you, the power of the Lord Most High. See what can be accomplished, what trials can be overcome, when your lint trap is unobstructed.

“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” ~ Luke 24:49

~ Susan