I rarely go back and read previous blog posts on my blog, but once in a while I run across one that makes me wonder what I had to say back then, and that happened the other night. This particular blog post was written on February 2, 2013–exactly three years ago today. I was curious as to what I had written back then given that another three years has passed since that time, and my “situation” has still not improved due to circumstances beyond my control that I wrote about in a recent blog post three weeks ago titled, “Behind the Scenes.”
That particular blog from three years ago is titled, “Against All Odds.” It was during February of that year that I became aware of a few more details that were involved in my circumstances (which are crystal clear at this point in time). It’s not that the additional information changed how I viewed my circumstances, but it give me more information to go on. Call it a “light bulb” moment. For the sake of this blog post, the details are unimportant, but it was an crucial piece to the puzzle I was in need of at that time.
Apart from the length of time mentioned in this previous blog post (e.g., “four years” is now seven years) and the fact that a lot more changes have occurred during these past three years since it was written to include the fact that I no longer live where I lived when I wrote that blog post (instead, I am currently living in hotels–sigh…), rereading that post was a great reminder to me of all of the ways that God has met my needs during those first four years since losing my job in Houston in April 2009. Who knew it would still be ongoing three years later from the time I wrote it. And now it’s been going on seven years and counting since it all first began.
Of course, since that time three years ago, my circumstances have changed considerably and now include, for the past 16 months, my current housing search while living in hotels; and that has actually been going on for almost two years now since I left that apartment I lived in for over four years at the end of March 2014. Hotel living (and we aren’t talking The Marriott, either) is extremely expensive, and it started when I went back to Houston at the end of September 2014 to try to find affordable senior housing which, after a thorough search, ended three plus months later when I could not find any affordable housing while living in hotels that I thought would be a very temporary living situation. I returned to Florida after the dismal outcome of my housing search in Houston over a year ago, and I’ve been living in hotels for that past year here in Florida while continuing to search for affordable senior housing that just never seems to show up no matter how hard I try to find it. Of course, it all has to do with those “circumstances” that are beyond my control.
I’m glad I ran into this particular blog post from three years ago as it reminded me of all the ways God has been faithful to me during those first four years after losing my job in Houston. We do have a “success” mentality in America and we tend to assume that anything bad that happens (and sticks round) outside of the parameters of that “success” mentality is suspect. And for the past several decades that “success” mentality has invaded Christian thinking and living in America as if it is some sort of “proof” that one is, indeed, going in the right direction. Yet history and many biblical accounts do not speak to “outward appearances” as having anything to do with what God views as success. Still, we tend to march to that particular drummer, and it sort of reminds me of following a Pied Piper. That term comes from “the Pied Piper of Hamelin (in German legend) who is a piper who rid the town of Hamelin of rats by luring them away with his music and then, when he was not paid for his services, lured away its children” (quote source here). In short, it means someone who offers strong but delusive enticements (source here). And we have much in our society today that lures us and our children down paths we never intended to go and that we are often blinded by.
However, I don’t want to get off the topic of this post. This post is a reminder that Jesus lived among an “unbelieving generation” who thought they truly believed but when push came to shove, they really didn’t believe, and their actions proved that to be the case. I’ll let the blog post explain it. So without further ado, here it is–a blast from the past . . . .
And, by the way, I still believe in miracles . . . Yes, I do!!!
(This post was originally written on February 2, 2013)
Do you believe in miracles? Many folks say they do but when something miraculous actually happens many times they call it merely a “coincidence.” Dictionary.com defines “coincidence” as “a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance.” Mere chance . . . .
There’s a story in Mark 9:14-27 that I want to call to your attention regarding the healing by Jesus of a young boy possessed by an evil spirit:
“When they [Jesus, Peter, James and John] came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
“‘What are you arguing with them about?’ he asked.
“A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.’
“‘O unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.’
“So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
“Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’
“‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’
“‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’
“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’
“When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said, ‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’
“The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He’s dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.”
If you had been in the crowd that day and witnessed what happened, what would your reaction have been to the miracle that you just witnessed?
There are two striking remarks by Jesus in this account: “O unbelieving generation” and “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Herein lies the difference between believing in mere “coincidence” (by an unbelieving generation) and believing in miracles (as believers in Jesus Christ). With God there are no “coincidences.” None . . . .
As I look back over these past four plus years from the time I landed in Houston to start that ill-fated job that I lost almost seven months later that has brought about almost four years of unemployment at this point in time (and I’m still looking) I see miracle after miracle of God’s provision in my life. Many folks might just say it’s “coincidence” that all of these things happened. However, I have never believed in “coincidence.” No, I believe in God and that He is ultimately in control of everything that happens to us.
It was in the providence of God that I lost my job at the very same time that extended unemployment benefits were being approved (up to 99 weeks) for the long-term unemployed when the worst hit in 2008-2009 (a very rare occurrence during the decades that unemployment compensation has been available—the normal maximum is 26 weeks). And, I did not know about “extended benefits” until my first 26 weeks of benefits were about to expire. Add to that the fact that if I had not returned to Florida when my lease was up on my apartment in Houston at the end of September 2009 (and I really wanted to stay in Houston but couldn’t afford to financially on the $275/wk unemployment benefits I received from Florida) I would not have been able to collect the “extended benefits” due to the fact that the unemployment rate in Texas wasn’t high enough to receive extended benefits through Florida, but the Florida unemployment rate (one of the highest in the nation at that time) was high right on through the entire 99 weeks that I was able to collect unemployment benefits which ended at the end of May 2011. [Add’l note 2-2-16: On July 1, 2011, the 99 weeks of unemployment benefits became much harder to receive and was eventually phased out.]
Also, I would not have been able to come back to Florida at the end of September 2009 had I not been offered the spare bedroom in the home of a good friend at the time. I had been looking for a room to rent in a home in Houston at the time of her offer, and that is when I decided to return to Florida. Of course, I lost most of my possessions (all of my furniture, over 1000 books, and other items) as I couldn’t afford to move them back to Florida. However, her offer and my subsequent return to Florida allowed me to receive the extended unemployment benefits.
Three months after arriving back in Florida I found a cute little completely furnished “seasonal rental” at a rental rate I could afford on the unemployment compensation I was receiving as my friend’s unemployed niece moved in a couple of months after I arrived and it made for cramped living quarters for the three of us. And, I found the seasonal rental by calling an ad in the Yellow Pages for a real estate company who just happened to have a furnished apartment available at the time that they usually rented out as a “seasonal rental” during the winter months. I’ve now been living in it for just over three years while still seeking employment, and I couldn’t have found a more ideal living situation especially not knowing at the beginning when I rented it that I would still be living in it right up through today. [Add’l note 2-2-16: the house where my furnished apartment was located was sold to new owners–an investment company–on March 1, 2012, and then again to an older local couple on December 31, 2013. The last owner–the local couple–hiked the rent significantly, and since I had no income at the time I moved out on March 31, 2014.]
In May 2011, when I finally ran out of the 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, I still had just enough savings to keep me going for a few more months, and near the end of those few months when I still couldn’t find employment I had reached the “magic” age of 59 ½ and I was able to access my small retirement account without paying an additional 10% penalty required for anyone taking money out of a retirement account before the age of 59 ½. And that retirement account is what has kept me financially afloat right up through today. [Add’l note 2-2-16: Since I was still unemployed with no income since my unemployment benefits ran out at the end of May 2011, when I turned 62 in 2014 I applied for Social Security benefits which have provided a small monthly income since July 2014.]
From a medical standpoint, I’ve been very fortunately to be in good health all of my life. I was able to keep Cobra health insurance for the first 15 months after I was fired at a significantly reduced rate due to being fired (the reduced rate was not available for anyone quitting a job but only to those who were “involuntarily terminated”). Fortunately, I only had to seek medical help once during that time for a minor infection. Once my Cobra insurance ran out at the end of July 2010 I’ve had no medical insurance since then. In October 2010 I did have to seek help for a situation that required an MRI in order to find out what was going on and since I had no medical insurance it was hard to find a doctor who would see me without a large upfront payment except for one doctor (in a very upscale office and location) who charged me a very minimal amount to be seen. He also helped me find a place where I could get an MRI for only $300 (an astoundingly low price for an MRI). The situation was such that over the next two or three months I healed normally and completely without any additional medical care.
And from a spiritual standpoint, if you’ve been reading my blog posts, you know that I went from a very lethargic spiritual life (that I didn’t even realize was lethargic) when I landed in Houston to experiencing a living, breathing, vital relationship with Jesus Christ that penetrates every area of my life, and that my whole life, and especially my view of the world, has opened up in ways I never could have imagined. Not only that, I’ve been on an adventure that I wouldn’t replace for the highest paying job in the world. And just in the past year I was able to make trips to Atlanta and Houston that I never dreamed I could have afforded as an unemployed person on a very tight budget.
Now, you may say that all of these things that have happened to me are just “coincidence,” but that’s like looking at a full color photograph and only seeing it in black and white, or experiencing a 3-D world in only two dimensions. If you want to believe that everything that happens in the realm of “miracles” is only “coincidence,” you can continue to live on that flat plain. However, I’ll take the mountains and the valleys of real life any day of the week because I do believe in miracles. And they happen all the time . . . .
Jesus was frustrated by an “unbelieving generation” and that’s obvious when he stated, “O unbelieving generation. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (Mark 9:19). And He says the same to us today.
Jesus told the father of the boy possessed by an evil spirit that “Everything is possible for him who believes” and “immediately the boy’s father explained, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:23-24). And we need to respond in like manner. We can either choose to see life as a series of “coincidences” or as a life filled with miracles. So I go back to the question I posed when I started this blog post . . . .
Do you believe in miracles?
I do, and even though it’s been almost four years of waiting for that miracle to show up that will finally bring an end to this very long time of unemployment, I have seen and experienced firsthand God’s miracle provision for me all along my path.
Do I get frustrated waiting for that miracle to show up? Yes, I do, absolutely . . . but all I can think of is that it must be one heck of a great miracle up ahead after waiting all this time for it.
Coincidence? Are you kidding me?
No, I believe in miracles!!!
YouTube Video: “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City,” sung by Sinead O’Conner: