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Monday, August 2, 2021

What I Read in July


I had a pretty good summer of reading. I'm recognizing that most likely I won't meet my yearly goal of 150 books by the end of the year, but I'll keep trying. I was happy to attend a book club meeting tonight. It's good to talk books! (Even if we talked about life, too!)

1.  C is For Corpse by Sue Grafton
This is the third of a series featuring detective Kinsie Millhone. I love mindless mysteries, especially in the summertime, and this is one of those that is a quick read, suspenseful, and with enough of a plot to keep the reader interested but not overthinking. Sometimes I like a good summer read that doesn't cause me to think much. This one involves Kinsie investigating the death of Bobby Callahan, a young man she meets at the gym. His is a tragic story, with dysfunctional family drama making life even more complicated. If you enjoy a good mystery, you'll like this series. 

2. Whitethorn Woods  by Maeve Binchy
St. Ann's Well works miracles; at least to those who believe. When a new road threatens the existence of Rossmore, Whitethorn Woods, and specifically the well, Father Flynn finds himself in the middle of the debate against progress and tradition. Through the telling of community member's interwoven stories, Binchy shares the beauty of a community with the complexity of individuals. A great read! 

3. Someone Like You by Karen Kingsbury
I have loved every Karen Kingsbury book that I have read. The Baxter family feels like... well... family. This book centers around a family secret, discovering who you are, and an emphasis that family is more than being blood related. Kingsbury takes on the topic of frozen embryos and infertility, and handles the complexity of family with grace. Written in simple prose, it's an easy read that flows well and left me wanting more. Good thing there are other Baxter books!

4. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Danny and Maeve are affluent siblings raised by a dad with rags to riches story. Their world is turned upside down when tragedy strikes, and the subsequent events follow them for the remainder of their lives. While not explicitly discussed by the author, this book made me think of how we define success. It also centers around relationships and feelings of responsibility. This is one of the better books I've read this year. 

5. The Characters of Christmas 
A Christmas book fits in July, right? I actually started this one in December as a devotional and then got sidetracked. Darling provides character analysis of people who were involved in the Christmas story: Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, even Simeon awaiting the Messiah. Retellings of the Biblical story show us how ordinary people were important to the Christmas story. Reflection questions help the reader apply the readings to their own life. 

6. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
This is one of my favorite new books. Set in Eastern Kentucky, Moyes tells the story of a pack-horse librarian who came to the mountains from England. The writing was lyrical, descriptions of the mountains made me feel right at home, and there was enough romance and suspense to keep me engrossed. Highly recommend! (I have seen some reviews that compare to the Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, which I am reading now. I don't know about the similarities, but I can say that Moyes had to have done her research because I truly felt like she was in my backyard.)

7. The Island House by Nancy Thayer
I have never been to Nantucket but I love reading books set there, especially in the summer. This book centers around the Vickerey family, following them into adulthood. Courtney is a "summer child", one of several kids who calls the island house home during the summer because of a friendship with one of the Vickerey siblings. Courtney tells the family story through flashbacks, and then we are brought back to the present time, when the family must face their own struggles. This book draws the reader into thinking about relationships (sense a theme here?) but is light-hearted enough to be a good beach read. 

8. First Comes Love by Emily Giffin
Giffin is another author that I enjoy. In this novel, she introduces us to two sisters who have grown up in the shadows of the death of a brother. One sister strives to be the responsible. One is known to be more flighty. Both fall into their roles momentarily, until they are forced to admit that these roles may be a facade. As the anniversary of their brother's death draws closer, and the two sisters find themselves looking inward, family drama surfaces, bringing their relationship to the breaking point. I really enjoyed the characters in this novel. There is some inappropriate language. 

9. The Goodbye Quilt by Susan Wigg
Loved this book!!! It chronicles the road trip by a mom and her 18 year old daughter who is heading off to college. The book details a quilt the mom is making from keepsakes fabric from her daughter's childhood. It may have hit a little too close to home, even though Caleb isn't actually going away from school, but it was a delightful read with an ending I didn't suspect. 

10. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
This book details the stories of two young men sent to a reform school in Florida at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Describing the lives of those housed in the reform school, it is a difficult read at times. What makes it even more difficult to read is that it is based on a real place, even though the characters are fictional, but I feel like it is an important read, because it made me think. 

11. First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies
I enjoyed this book, which gave inside glances of the women in the White House in modern times. Beginning with Jackie Kennedy and ending with Michelle Obama, with an afterword briefly introducing Melania Trump (it was written as Trump took over the Presidency), it showed the beauty and grace of those women behind our Commander in Chief. It includes quotes from letters and the author also interviewed key members of administrations and a couple of the first ladies themselves. Great read to show another side of American politics. 

What are you reading? I'd love to hear from you! 




Sunday, August 1, 2021

Lessons from Sunday School: A Whopper of a Fishing Story (Volume 1, Edition 3)

 Today my Bible reading was from Nahum 1, which was a warning to Ninevah.

Wait... a prophet preaching to Ninevah? 

We learned about that in Sunday School... but it wasn't a prophet named Nahum!

(Or at least I didn't remember it!)

Picture this: God wants you to do something that you don't want to do... so you run in the complete opposite direction.

Kind of sounds familiar to me... and that's just what Jonah, the prophet we may be more familiar with, does. 

Jonah knows Ninevah is evil, and he wants God's wrath to come on them, so he decided he'll hide from God and ignore his instructions. 

He hops on a boat and heads to Tarshish... which may mean "far away"... and thinks he is good to go. 

This isn't some Carnival Cruise, though, and we all know you can't hide from God, so sooner rather than later there's a storm that brews. 

If you've ever been at the ocean when a storm is brewing off the shorelines, you know the power of the wind and the waves... the angry tide crashing against the shoreline... 

even on a lake, which is normally relatively still, it doesn't take long for the wind to whip up a pretty strong current which can push a boat against the shoreline. 

So the winds are howling, the rain is pouring, and Jonah.... is snoring. 

Yes, that's right. He's sleeping as the boat is tossed to and fro. The captain comes to him and says, "Are you crazy? How can you sleep like that? We are looking at death! Get up and pray to whatever God you believe in!"

So Jonah gets up and goes above deck, where he joins in the casting of lots to determine whose fault it is that the storm has brewed. I'm reminded here about how so much of Biblical life is different. If it storms today, we don't automatically blame each other... we understand weather patterns. In fact, I can sometimes predict storms because the humidity triggers migraines... but in this case... we know it was God. 

And the lots prove that. Jonah explained that he was on the run from his responsibilities. Jonah tells them to throw him overboard, but the sailors value life too much, so they try to take things in their own hands and keep trying to row to shore. 

Does that remind anyone of anything in their own lives? Not us, grasping at the wheel, white-knuckled, just trying to keep it between the lines as all hell breaks lose around us. Nope, we've got it under control...

but the sailors soon become exhausted, so they realize they will have no choice but to throw Jonah overboard. Here's the part I never got from Sunday School. Even though they did not serve God, they prayed to Him that He wouldn't hold them accountable for being the means of death for Jonah. This tells me they respected the Hebrew God. 

So they threw Jonah overboard, and the sea became calm... the end. 

Not. 

God wasn't done yet. He still needed Ninevah to hear a redemptive message, and for whatever reason, He wanted Jonah to be the one to preach it. Hear this, friend. It doesn't matter what you have done. How you have ran. God has a purpose for you. He has a plan for you. And He'll use whatever means it takes to get your attention and get you on the right road to where you are supposed to be. 

In Jonah's case, it was a gigantic fish. (Cue the Sunday School teacher with the flannel board with the gray whale bobbing in the blue sea). Swallowed Jonah right up... I wonder if it was in one gulp. 

And there he stayed for three days and three nights... that sounds familiar, too? Maybe some foreshadowing of death being defeated? 

So Jonah doesn't just lay there in the belly of the fish. He cries out to God. Can you even imagine? I'm pretty sure that, knowing my disposition, I'd be a little angry, even though I asked for it.  We can read  part of Jonah's prayer in Chapter 2, but 3 days is a long time to say just a few words. I'm thinking that there were some things Jonah had to say to God... and God had to say to Jonah... that we just don't need to know. 

At the end of the prayer, Jonah is praising God and recognizing his salvation. The fish spewed him out of his mouth onto dry land... and Jonah went on his merry way. Straight to Ninevah. Where he preached a fire and brimstone message, doom and gloom and destruction, so passionately that he convinced the king, who declared a fast and a time of repentance. God saw the city citizens turn their heart away from evil and decided not to destroy them. 

And then, chapter 4. My favorite part of the story that I never focused on when I was young, probably because my mind was trying to work around the whole logistics of living in the belly of a whale and also because a eight year old only pouts at their parents. 

Jonah gets mad. He sees the good God has done and it displeases him. "See! I knew you'd save them! That's why I didn't want to come here!" 

Not because he was afraid that when he was preaching a negative message that he'd be in danger. 

Nope, but because he KNEW God was good and KNEW Ninevah didn't deserve grace... but that grace is who God is. He was so mad he wished that he would die! 

So he went and sat and pouted, just as I probably would, because our flesh likes the thought of karma and people getting what they deserve until it is us that deserves punishment. God sent a little tree or vine to cover up his head when he got hot, and used it as an illustration of how God cares about all living things, and says, "Shouldn't I have spared Ninevah, and the residents?"

And then it ends, y'all. We don't see Jonah's response. Did he sit and stew or did he realize that we all need grace? 

What I learned in recapping this story

-You can't run from God. 

-God has a plan for each of us. He wants to use us in His story.

-Nobody deserves grace, but God is so very merciful that He longs to give it to all. 

I'd love to hear your takeaways!

"Who did, who did, who did, who did swallow Jonah?" Jonah and the Whale song - YouTube (I don't own rights to this song but I sure did sing it when I was little in the basement of the church, probably wearing a frilly polyester dress with patent leather shoes and itchy tights, dancing along and looking forward to cherry koolaid!) 

And, going back to my reading today... well, Ninevah didn't learn it's lesson, kind of like the people of Israel and also kind of like me, sometimes, so 150 or so years later Nahum is telling them the same message, and this time, the great city does see destruction... 

So let's keep looking for lessons in our lives and not make the same mistake twice (it's not a mistake if you learn something). 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1, Edition 4)

 Swing your partner- Caleb recently went to an event sponsored by the Applachian Arts Alliance in downtown Hazard and came home with plenty of tales regarding all things Appalachian... well, some things Appalachian, anyway. His description of squaredancing took me back to LBJ and the Virginia Reel and Heel Toe Polka (I think is the name of it). There is such a thing as muscle memory and even thirty years later I can close my eyes and see myself "right right right". I wanted to dance right then! 

The Olympics came a year late and I've been so excited. 

Last week I watched the Opening Ceremony and the Parade of Nations made me a little teary-eyed. Thinking of what so many in the world have gone through in the past year... what so many are going through. Some athletes exuded joy, some appeared so solemn... I thought of what it must mean to represent your country. I loved the unique costumes during the Parade, how each one symbolizes something about their country. My favorites:  Aruba (that bluish-green is just what I picture the water to look like!), Uganda's dresses on their women, the orange of the Netherlands, the flowers of Krgystan (spellling?), Haiti's patchwork dresses, Luxembourg's shiny silver coats... and it always amazes me that I forget there are so many countries! 

When I was growing up, I always imagined being an Olympian. Not because I was particularly athletic, but I loved to pretend to walk the balance beam and any motel swimming pool was an Olympic lane. One time my aunt Lisa E. took me to UK's Aquatic Center where there really was an Olympic size pool with lanes and everything and I was in awe. I guess that's why I've always loved the Olympics... but as kids we don't think of the pressure that comes with carrying your country on your shoulders. 

Today I watched as Simone Biles has been debated across social media channels for opting out of team competition. Simone's life story is one of resiliency, and she stood up in the face of sexual exploitation of a whole slew of girls... went on to form her own gym and embrace pouring confidence into younger athletes. Today, she decided enough was enough. For whatever reason, she felt she needed to step out of the competition. I found myself thinking how we all cheered on Kerri in 1996 when she landed a vault in Atlanta on a badly hurt ankle. The picture of Bela holding her as she waved to the audience went viral for that time period... but as I've sat and thought about that, I see the sadness in it, as well. Today, I'm applauding Simone for recognizing that sometimes, admitting you are weak is really the greatest strength. 

There has to be a balance between just giving up because you are afraid and recognizing when you've had enough, but this is a conversation that we need to be having, and mental health matters! 

Looking to the future- Cheerleading is an Olympic sport! Cheerleaders everywhere are cheering! 


I've been thinking a lot about cats and dogs lately. I automatically think of cats as females and dogs as males. I'm not sure why... anyone else? 


What I Read This Week

1. The Goodbye Quilt by Susan Wiggs

2. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

3. First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Bower

Speaking of books...Tonight I went to a book signing with Caleb in Hazard. The book was Twilight in Hazard. I haven't read it but will be doing so. As I sat and listened to the author interact with the audience, I was reminded of the importance of using our own voices to tell our own stories. Try to do that sometime... don't let others define you! 


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Lessons from Sunday School- Double Trouble (Volume 1 Edition 2)

 Today our sermon was from Genesis 25-27.... the story of Jacob and Esau. 

There are certain themes that run through God's Word. As a child, we may miss them, because our teachers focus on the stories and we can't often recognize the undercurrent... but as an adult, when thinking of application, we begin to see them emerge. 

The Bible is a love letter to each of us, yes. It's a roadmap for direction, and a source of comfort in difficult times. But recently as I have attempted to get back into a habit of reading His Word daily, I have been reminded by others that ultimately, the Bible points to God... and to Christ. It is a redemption story that allows us to come to know our Redeemer intimately. It shows us and teaches us about God, because He desires a relationship with His children, and before you can truly have a relationship, you have to know the other individual. 

I write all that to say this- one of the themes that is interwoven through Scripture is that the first will be last. What we see about God's character, what we come to know about Him, is that He loves us with no respect of person or status. 

The simple story you may  have heard as a child: 

Rebekkah is married to Isaac. Isaac is the son of promise, but that may be too complicated for you to understand, except maybe it makes you remember, "I am a promise. I am a possibility. I am a promise, with a capital P..." Rebekkah wants to have a baby. As a child, you don't understand the significance of children, that it is only through the children that women find their worth in this society... so Rebekkah is hopeless when she can't have a baby. 

Chances are, depending on when you grew up, you didn't even really get into that whole conversation, because pregnancy and babies weren't something that you talked about in polite companies. 

Anyhow, Rebekkah is going to have not one baby... but two... and they struggle in her womb. You probably didn't hear that part of the story, either... but the grown-up in me thinks this is a perfect picture of how we all act in tight spaces. Stuck somewhere with someone else that is different than you? There's going to be a struggle. 

Chances are, as a child, you probably started the story with two babies. Two twins. Not identical. In fact, as different from one another as they could be. They grow up with different interests. The older, Esau, is a hunter. The younger, Jacob, sticks to the tent. One is a Mama's boy... and it isn't the masculine hunter. 

So, one day, Esau comes in from working outside and is famished. Surely you can relate. He's not just hungry. He's HANGRY. He demands that Jacob gives him some of that red pottage like he did before, only Jacob sees his desperation and decides that he needs something from him. 

Because Esau is the firstborn, he's slated to get the birthright. The blessing. The inheritance. 

But Jacob knows Esau. He's grown up with him, and he knows his impulsive personality. He tells him he will only share his food if Esau gives him his birthright. 

For a child, you may not know what a birthright is... but your teacher may have compared it to your mom or dad's baseball card collection, only on a much grander scale. 

Esau, in his desperation, says, "I'm so hungry I'm going to die anyway, so what good will it do me?" The Bible doesn't tell us, but I'm pretty sure that Esau is a teenager, because I can hear that statement in a surly teenage voice, cracking from hormones. 

And that one decision... an impulsive one that he doesn't even consider... sets the ball in motion. This is a good time to point out that we shouldn't make impulsive decisions. We should prayerfully consider each action and avoid making a permanent solution for a temporary problem.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Isaac is on his deathbed. He is preparing to give the blessing, a blessing that Esau should receive... but remember how I said that theme about the first being last? In this family lineage, the younger brother tends to get the blessing. This story involves some trickery. Isaac wants some venison. Esau goes to hunt it. Rebekkah dresses Jacob up in a goatskin (can you even imagine??) and cooks Isaac a tasty food. Isaac, who can't see, says, "It smells like Jacob, but it feels like Esau"... so he blesses him. 

In our adult application, this is a good time to point out that how we feel or what we feel can be deceiving... 

So Jacob gets the birthright through Esau's impulsive action, the blessing through his own deception, and Isaac dies. Jacob goes on the run because Esau is an angry man, and no amount of pottage is going to satisfy his anger... 

And Jacob, the deceiver, is a patriarch, a key member in the lineage of Jesus, because he goes on to become known as Israel and have 12 sons who birth a nation. 

God can take our mistakes and redeem them. 

God sees past our deceptions and uses all things for good. 

This story shows us that God's character is full of mercy, forgiveness, and redemption. 

We don't always understand that as kids, but as adults, when we mess up on the daily, we can appreciate it fully. 


Friday, July 23, 2021

Five Minute Friday: Order

 It's Friday! Fri-yay!!! If you're a regular around this page, you know I'm a nursing educator, so sometimes during the summer I don't know what the day is... but I saw a meme yesterday on Facebook that made me chuckle. It said, "The closer to August it gets, the more likely I am to know what day of the week it is." 

During the semester, my theme song should be "Everybody's workin' for the weekend." This summer, though, I have really tried to be intentional about my time, and I hope to continue that once I start back to work. I don't want to be that person who wastes their life wishing for another day...

With that being said, I hope your Friday is fabulous, your weekend feels long, and you do one thing that makes you smile. 

Around here, for the past few weeks, at least, since I've dipped my toes back into the writing water, Fridays also mean Five Minute Fridays, where I link up with other writers to write on a one-word prompt. I set a timer for 5 minutes and write... without editing (except I can't help but backspace if I see a spelling error), without overthinking, and then hit publish at the end of the five minutes. This week's prompt is: ORDER. 

and... GO...

My office, if you want to call it that, is a den of chaos. I have piles upon piles of books spilling out of bookshelves. There are three tubs of things I moved out of my office from Morehead... pictures and collectibles and conference notes. There's my yoga mat and my pound sticks. Bible study books, half finished. 

As I start focusing on what I want to do in the future, with school and work and writing, I know I need a designated space, so some sort of semblance of order needs to be created. The funny thing about order and organization is that what is "in order" for one person may not be "in order" for another. 

Case in point: every time I have ever attempted to organize an office, I lose something. Not permanently lose it, but when I start needing a form or notes I've taken on something, when it's "organized" it disappears. 

Order in my office and living space often occurs in stacks. Stacks of folders. Stacks of papers. Stacks of books. 

But is is ordered chaos, because when in stacks, I generally know which pile something is in. I can put my hand on it fairly quickly, depending on where it is in the stack. 

My "order" would drive somebody else crazy, but it works for me. 

I work best when I am surrounded by what appears to be disorder... I can picture back to when I was working on my research project for my doctorate. I would be sitting in my bed with piles of paper all around me, notes and journal articles and postits... 

and then, somehow, all those would be merged into one finished product. 

With a logical, recognizable order. 

So, with organization, if you aren't a pinterest perfectionist, don't despair. Figure out  a system and go with it. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so, too, is order. 

Check out other writers and their thoughts on order here

And share... how do you "put things in order?' 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Tuesday Tidbits (Volume 1 Edition 3)

 You are the expert on your life. This epiphany, if you want to call it that, came to me on one of my evening walks (as epiphanies often do).  Click the link to read my thoughts on gathering experts, and just deciding that you have to put in the work. 

It's Ok Not to Finish a Book-

Yes, I wrote that down. I have always been the kind of reader that feels guilty putting a book aside, but recently I was reading a book where some of the content just honestly made me uncomfortable, so I stopped it. I took it off my Goodreads list and told myself life is too short to spend it reading things that my conscious says I shouldn't... so now if only I could convince myself life is too short to read bad books. How about you? Do you finish every book you start? 

The Olympics!!! 

Y'all... I have loved the Olympics since I was little. I can remember going on vacation and pretending to be an Olympic swimmer in the larger pools, racing from one side to the other. Now I'll be the first to admit that I really know next to nothing about a lot of the events, and don't have one athletic bone in my body, but the excitement of competition makes me want to watch ALL the events. I was thrilled last week when I learned that our Peacock subscription allowed us to record the events. My favorites are gymnastics, swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, and I like the fast track and field events. None of those watching marathons for me... but I am not above acting like I know everything about every event. I especially love the opening and closing ceremonies. I'm sure I'll have some thoughts next week! 

School Supplies

I'm trying not to be too sad that summer is almost over, but one thing that I do get excited about are school supplies. I love pens and notebooks. I discovered Sharpie S-Gel pens earlier this year and if you're looking for a good ink pen, it's a safe bet. It comes in a variety of colors (I like purple), and can be fine or medium point. Highly recommend! 

Pic-Collage

Am I the only person who uses this to compare different things? Like if I'm trying to see if something is similar I'll snap a pic of the two things and put them side by side. Also, am I the only person that zooms in on stacks of books to see what other people are reading? 

Shout out to Small Businesses

Over the last year we all saw the importance of shopping local, and though I don't always do the best at it I'd like to encourage you to support your local businesses and restaurants. If you're in the Jackson area, stop by and see my friends at the Sno-zone (in the Walmart shopping center). They recently had a fundraiser for Aspire Appalachia and the cherry snocone I got hit the spot. They have a variety of flavors to choose from! 




Books I Read this Week (come back at the end of the month for full reviews)

1. The Island House by Nancy Thayer

2. First Comes Love by Emily Giffin


Sunday, July 18, 2021

Lessons from Sunday School (Volume 1, Edition 1): It's Hot In Here

Today I had Children's Church. We take turns doing one Sunday a month, and since COVID and the flood we've had one group for ages 5-18. When I say that children's church isn't my calling, I'm being honest. I struggle with relating with little ones sometimes, but I can honestly say that I learn something from them each day. 

 

Last night I still hadn't determined what I was going to teach about, so I turned to facebook for inspiration. So many of my friends shared their favorite Bible stories, and I thought back to my own childhood Sunday School lessons. I can still remember cherry Kool-aid in styrofoam cups, vanilla cookies on white napkins, stories told on the flannel board, and coloring sheets depicting the Red Sea and Moses in a basket. 


I recognize that not everyone was raised in church, and even those who were go through a period of reconciling their own faith. Religion vs. relationship is something that we all must come to terms with, and sometimes we find that what we were taught isn't necessarily exactly how we see things, but that's ok. I watched a Bible study today and the author said, "Before we can preach truth to ourselves, we have to know it," and that's why it is so important that we continue to study the Bible... in-depth, so we know what it says. 


With that being said, we can still learn a lot from those Bible stories that we learned growing up. As an adult, it's good to go back and revisit them, because we see things from a different perspective, with different experiences.

 

Today, I taught from Daniel 1 and Daniel 3, the story of The Fiery Furnace. We meet the three young Hebrew boys and their friend Daniel in the first chapter. They are captive in Babylon, a foreign land. Some commentaries that I have read said that the Babylon king brought the finest young men to serve as captive, and left others who may not have had as much potential behind. We don't know their exact ages, but they were most likely teenagers. Imagine you are taken into a strange land as a teenager. We don't know if their parents have gone with them. All we know is they are in a foreign land, at an impressionable age. 


Early in their captivity, they are faced with decisions that must be made. The King entices them with choice food. I don't know about you, but I like to eat good stuff. Daniel, who seems to be the leader of the bunch, felt convicted that the King's food wasn't what they should partake of, and "purposed in his heart..."


I don't know about you, but as a teenager, I didn't purpose much in my heart. I might have refused food, but it would have been more about fitting into a smaller size of blue jeans than making a stand. We are told that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (formerly known as Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah... their names had been changed from names focused on the One True God to names that focused on Babylonian gods) follow suit. Instead of the king being upset, they found favor in his sight. And because of their resolve, and because God is faithful, He gave them wisdom and knowledge and understanding. 


Fast forward to a period of time, and the king gets the great idea to make a huge golden statue for everyone to worship. Remember the 10 Commandments that all Hebrew kids grew up reciting? Thou shalt have no other gods... thou shalt make no graven images? Well, ol' King Neb surely hadn't heard that story. He made a decree that everyone in the land should fall down and worship the statue. Cue the music.. 


And everyone fell to their knees... except three Hebrew boys. 


Here's the thing. Those "boys" had wisdom and knowledge and understanding... so they also would have known about the King's decree that anyone who did not worship would be thrown in the fiery furnace "that very hour".

 

The King heard they had refused to worship, and he was outraged. After all, these had been some his chosen captives! No doubt they had even received special treatment... and then they made him look like a fool. 

He called them in. "Is it true? Did you not follow my instructions? Did you refuse to worship?" 

The KJV says, as he is questioning them, he says, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" 


One of the points I made today was that we have to be ready to answer regarding who our God is. I asked the kids who God was, and they said, "good" and "love" and I also added "faithful and just". 

The Hebrew boys stood tall in front of the King and were ready with their answer. They knew the fiery furnace was waiting, and they had to be afraid, but they were unrelenting. 



Daniel 3: 17-18, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

They basically said, "If God saves us, so be it, and if we die, so be that as well." I thought of Paul, who said, "To live is Christ, to die is gain."

So the King was outraged, and he ordered that the fiery furnace be made even hotter. They were bound by the strongest men to ensure they wouldn't be able to get loose, and they were thrown into a furnace so hot that the men who threw them in the fire were killed.

And then...

There was a fourth man in the fire. They were loose, walking around, and one like unto the Son of Man was walking with them.

Ever sat in front of a campfire for an hour or so? You come in and smell like smoke...

but these men weren't singed and they didn't even smell like smoke.

Friend, I don't know what kind of fire you are going through tonight, but I know we've all gone through some fire. You aren't there alone. You may not know what the ending is going to be, but God does, and He's there.

And you'll bring Him glory. When you stand firm, He stands with you. Ol' King Neb pulled those Hebrew boys out of the fire and immediately changed his decree, pointing that there was no other god like the Hebrew God, and declaring that all should worship Him.

Lots of lessons in just a few simple verses.

Hope you enjoyed this little retelling. What did I miss?

Also, I'm hoping to do these every Sunday, because there are so many great stories in the Bible. You can read this on your own at Bible Gateway. It's in Daniel Chapters 1 and the Fiery Furnace is in Chapter 3. You can choose a translation there, or switch back and forth like I like to.