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Twelve days ago when I was driving around in the community, I felt a sharp pain in my back and I had no idea what was causing it. When it didn’t go away I wondered if I had pulled my back in some way that I didn’t immediately remember. The pain seemed to shoot from that area of my back straight through to my chest area. I contemplated buying a heating pad to use on it and eventually did buy one four days later.
On that same day when I bought the heating pad, I was showering in the morning and I noticed a bright red rash on the left side of my upper breast area that looked like a bug had bitten me, and I noticed I was feeling tired and losing my energy. The next day the rash had expanded and by the third day blisters were beginning to form on the rash, so I went to an Urgent Care Clinic and discovered what was wrong. . . .
I don’t even remember having chickenpox when I was a child but there was no getting over the fact that I had a case of shingles [note: the chickenpox virus never leaves one’s system and lies dormant and can cause a shingles breakout decades later in life], and it wrapped around the upper part and side of my left breast, under my left armpit and on the upper side of my left arm, and around the left side of my back where the pain had originated several days earlier.
The shingles are incredibly painful, and it totally zapped my energy. In the beginning I felt tired and I had a headache off and on, my stomach was upset, and diarrhea followed. The doctor gave me an Rx for an antiviral medication for seven days, and a pain medication for several days, too, although it doesn’t stop the pain but sometimes it knocks me out so I can sleep.
To say the least, it totally ruined my dedication to my 40-minute exercise routine that I do several times a week and have been doing for the past several years. I went five days without doing it until I finally summoned up enough energy to do it again two days ago.
It’s been one week since I first noticed the rash forming in the shower, and five days since I saw the doctor and got the Rx. The shingles are following its normal sequence . . . the blisters are beginning to turn into scabs and eventually in two to four or maybe five weeks the whole episode will be over according to the information I’ve found on the internet. I’m at the beginning of Week 2 and the pain is still pretty sharp in certain places but that total lack of energy is beginning to subside a bit as well as the other symptoms. I forced myself to do my exercises again two days ago and again yesterday. That makes a big difference.
I’ve been getting restless to write a blog post during this time but I didn’t have the energy to sit behind my laptop for the amount of time it takes to write a blog post; however, I decided to give it a try today. My last blog post, “More Than Coincidence,” was written right after the pain in my back started twelve days ago.
I thought I’d write a sequel to “More Than Coincidence”–sort of like a “Part Two” to the story. As I did in that previous blog post, I’ll start with a story of my own and then include a story from the book titled, “More Than Coincidence” (2015), by the Editors of Guideposts, that I quoted from in my last post.
I’ll start with the shingles story since some of it has already been written above. I need to give a little background information leading up to when I got the shingles. I spent over two years looking for low-income housing in the city and state I left last summer to come to this city and state where I have currently been living since late July 2016. I was living in a hotel in the previous city/state for longer than I care to think about, and I’ve now been living in a hotel here for what will soon be longer than I care to think about, too; however, at least at this hotel I have a small kitchenette area with a full sized refrigerator, a two-burner stovetop, a large microwave, a kitchen sink and counter area, and a few kitchen cabinets. This was a big improvement over the hotel I was staying at in the other city/state which only provided a small dorm like frig and small microwave. And not only that, this hotel saves me $50/week over what I had been paying at that other hotel with no kitchenette in the other state. That has made a big difference. And this city where I have been for almost a year now is huge, and I like it a lot, too.
I do believe that God is always in control. Always, always, always . . . but that is not to say that in being human there haven’t been times I have passed the point of wondering just what is going on as no matter what I try to do nothing changes in the low-income housing search. And as the one year mark approaches to my being here in this city/state, I started feeling a sense of restlessness as not even one door has opened up for me in the way of affordable housing, and right before I got the shingles I was ready to pack up my car and leave, even though I didn’t want to leave because I do like this city. I was just very tired of nothing opening up, and I’ve now spent a total of over three years of looking for low income housing with nothing opening up. Add to it the several years I spent in a massive job hunt that went nowhere, too, and all of this started back when I lost that job in Houston eight years ago. That is the starting point for all of it.
At the time I felt that sharp pain in my back twelve days ago I was headed out to look at a cute furnished apartment taking up the 2nd floor of a completely renovated house (built in the early 1900’s). It was way too expensive for my budget, but it was the only time I had ever received a serious response from an ad for a furnished apartment on Craigslist in over three years of answering ads on Craigslist (and placing ads, too). The deposit for the apartment was extremely high and the rent was $1000/mo. It would have been temporary at best but at least it wouldn’t have been a hotel room and the monthly rent is the same amount I’m paying for this hotel room, and the furnished apartment would have provided a lot more living space with an actual bedroom, living room, very big kitchen area, balcony, and it is adorable, too, from the pictures sent to me by the manager.
I couldn’t actually see the apartment as tenants were currently renting it (it is usually rented out on a short term basis) and I knew I couldn’t afford the deposit let alone adding in the first month’s rent all at one time–a total of $2300, but to have even considered it shows just how very tired I am of hotel living after living in hotels for almost three years now. The expense alone is a killer and it requires the financial help of my almost 94-year-old father just to live in the hotels as I sure can’t pay the rent on my Social Security income as my only source of income along with other living expenses.
At this point, I was beginning to get tired of waiting on God to move in my circumstances (not that I had a clue what to do other than what I was already doing). I just want a change for the better and not the same stuff I’ve lived through for these past eight years since I lost that job in Houston. However, I knew there was no way I could afford that furnished apartment, so I thought about packing up my stuff in my car and going home to where part of my family lives in the Midwest. After all, weekly rate hotels are everywhere, and nothing has opened up for me here after almost a year that I’ve been here. And, a family member and his wife were expecting their first baby any day, too (he arrived on June 21st).
And in the middle of trying to decide what to do, I was laid low with a case of shingles and couldn’t do anything. It reminded me of Job (in the Bible) and his boils. Now, mind you, my circumstances couldn’t be more opposite of Job’s so I’m not comparing my situation with his, but the reason behind Job’s boils reminded me that not everything bad that happens to us is our fault or caused by something we did. Sometimes it is the way God slows us down. And that’s what He did with my case of shingles.
We have so many phrases in Christianity that some have become almost cliche especially when said by folks who aren’t experiencing a hard time but repeat them to folks who are. “Wait on God” is one of those phrases that can fall off the lips of some folks who have rarely waited for anything if they had the money or the right connections and could get what they wanted through them. The phrase itself is anything but trite, and God has stated it over and over again throughout the Bible that we should wait on Him. In fact, in Psalm 37:7, David writes:
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
So for the next few days and maybe weeks, I have been stopped from moving on by a case of shingles. At the moment, I can’t end this story as I’m still waiting to see what comes next, but it is no coincidence that I got shingles, no matter how I managed to acquire them.
With that being said, I will now share a story from the book, “More Than Coincidence” (2015), by the Editors of Guideposts. This story is taken from a chapter titled, “God Delivers and Rescues,” and the story is titled, “The Survivors,” on pp. 71-73:
by John Senka
“Welcome, US Army 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry, 25th Division.” I stared at the sign outside the reception. For forty years I’d avoided these Vietnam vets’ reunions. I didn’t want to talk about the battle that haunted my nightmares, or how I’d survived.
The Battle of Mole City, December 22, 1968. We were a unit of five hundred American soldiers, stations in deep bunkers along one of the North Vietnamese Army’s (NVA’s) busiest supply routes. I was twenty. Fit, strong, tough. My three months in ‘Nam hadn’t been much different than working on our family farm. I spent most days in the hot sun, digging the trenches the base was named for.
There was a holiday truce. After dinner, we opened packages from home with cards, cookies, and miniature trees. It almost felt like Christmas. At 10:00 p.m. we received our orders for the night: patrol, LP (the listening post), or perimeter. I was assigned to defend the perimeter.
All was quiet till midnight. The LP reported some NVA movement. The four of us in our bunker took our positions. Suddenly the night sky lit up. Flares. Mortar fire. A surprise attack!
We returned fire. There was a tremendous explosion. An anguished scream from the soldier next to me. I looked over. He was dead. I was struck, too, in my right leg. Another grunt dove out the back of the bunker. I crawled after him.
We squeezed into the next bunker filled with GIs. Something thudded into the mud. Another grenade! I threw myself as far from it as I could.
Boom! Blood ran from my ears. A third grenade rolled in. Shrapnel ripped into my belly. My rifle was clogged with mud. My injured leg was useless. We were overrun. Guys were falling, crying out for their mothers. One brave sergeant climbed out of the bunker, firing his M16. His silhouette crumpled; his body rolled down past me. All I could do was lie there and wait for death.
I wouldn’t have called myself religious, even though I wore a miraculous medal with my dog tags. Still, I shouted above the gunfire, “God, help me!”
Everything went silent. No explosions. No screams. Like I’d gone deaf. At the same time, I felt something hover over me. It fell softly upon my shoulders, warm, comforting, like I was a child being tucked into bed. Before I could figure out what it was, I blacked out.
When I came to, it was daylight. I moved to uncover myself, but nothing was there. Feet shuffled outside the bunker. Who had won? The NVA? Would I be taken prisoner? I pulled away a sandbag blocking my view. It thumped to the ground.
A helmeted head poked in. A US Army sergeant. “It’s okay, soldier,” he said.
I was the only one found alive in that bunker. The Army sent me home. The physical wounds healed. My other wounds didn’t. Counselors told me that the nightmares were my mind trying to piece together what happened in Mole City. Even after I learned that we’d been stormed by 1,500 NVA, outnumbered three to one, the survivor’s guilt remained. Why had I been wrapped in the cocoon of safety while others died?
For forty years that guilt kept me away from reunions. I wasn’t sure why I’d come now. But I took a deep breath and entered the reception hall. I put on my name tag and scanned the room.
A man came up and saw my name tag. “You’re the guy I’ve been looking for.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Who are you?”
“Bob Chavous.” He shook my hand. “I heard you were in the perimeter bunder near where I was supposed to be. I survived, the other guys didn’t. It’s not easy to talk about.”
I understood all too well. Bob said he’d been assigned to the LP that night, one of the men who called in the warning about the enemy soldiers.
“Before we could withdraw, the sky lit up with a hundred mortars. We were pinned down in a rice paddy,” Bob said. “I made my peace with God, and prayed He’d let my family know that I loved them.”
He paused for a moment, searching for the right words. “Then it was like . . . a blanket settled over me and put me to sleep until the fighting was over.”
A blanket of protection. I’d never know why it had covered me. But I hadn’t been the only one. How many others at this reunion had felt the same thing? Been touched by the same inexplicable warmth that we told ourselves couldn’t possibly be real?
I was ready to talk then. Ready to tell everything I’d held inside. I wasn’t alone. Bob needed to know he wasn’t either. (Quote source, “More Than Coincidence,” pp. 71-73.)
“A blanket of protection.” It not only saved him but others that same night that he didn’t even know about until forty years later. God, indeed, works in mysterious ways. GotQuestions.org states:
God’s methods often leave people totally bewildered. Why would God tell Joshua and the children of Israel to march around the city of Jericho for a week (Joshua 6:1–4)? What good could possibly come from Paul and Silas being arrested and beaten without cause (Acts 16:22–24)? Why would God allow Joni Eareckson, a talented, vivacious girl of seventeen, to break her neck in a diving accident and spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair?
The processes God uses, the interplay of human freedom and God’s sovereignty, and God’s ultimate summations are far beyond what the limited human mind can understand. The Bible and the testimonies of Christians down through the ages are brimming with true stories of how God turned situation after situation, problem after problem, life after life, completely upside down—and He often does it in the most unexpected, astonishing, and inexplicable ways. (Quote source and read more here.)
God does work in mysterious ways, and waiting is often a part of his working in our lives. Once again I’m reminded of what David wrote in Psalm 27:14 which states . . .
Wait for the Lord . . .
Be strong and take heart . . .
And wait for the Lord . . . .
YouTube Video (it’s the same video I posted on my last blog post): “Coincidence? I Think NOT!” from the movie, The Incredibles (2012):
Yesterday while browsing the bargain bookshelves at Barnes & Nobles I ran across a book titled, “More Than Coincidence” (2015), by the Editors of Guideposts. The book contains eighty stories that “will astonish, comfort, and inspire” readers from the pages of Mysterious Ways, a magazine born of the most popular feature in Guideposts” (quote source from the back cover of the book). The “Introduction” to the book opens with the following paragraphs:
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV). Time and again we see evidence that reveals God’s involvement in our everyday lives. Sometimes the heaven-sent guidance is overlooked when we brush it off as coincidence. Other times, we can think of it as nothing less than a miracle.
Van Varner, the former editor of “Guideposts” magazine, wrote: “Faith is made of mystery and awe; it is not in knowing the tangible but in believing in the intangible that our faith flourishes. The hidden hand of God moves silently, leaving behind evidence of things unseen.”
This is the very idea this book explores: it is in those moments, when we see God’s mysterious touch in our lives, that our faith is the strongest. Though we can’t always understand His methods, we know that He is directing us toward the right path or helping us through the tough times. (Quote source: Introduction to “More Than Coincidence.”)
As I was reading over a few stories in the book last night, a memory from over four decades ago in my own life came to mind. I was 22 years old and I had just completed Basic Training and AIT (advanced individual training) in the United States Army, and I had received orders to be stationed in South Korea. I first arrived in Seoul, South Korea, to be “processed” before going to my duty station which was located just outside of Pusan (Busan), South Korea, the second largest city located on the southern coast of South Korea. However, my first stop was to be at a U.S. Army base just north of Taegu (Daegu), about three quarters of the way down between Seoul and Pusan. After I was “processed” in Seoul, a Sergeant took me to the train station in Seoul to board a train heading south to the southern coast of South Korea with many stops in between. I was told to get off the train at Waegwan, South Korea, a small town where Camp Carroll Army Depot was located. When I asked how I would know when to get off the train, the sergeant just laughed and said to get off “in about twelve stops.” There were no signs in English for me to read to have any idea when I was approaching Waegwan.
I boarded the train and quickly discovered that I was the only American in the section of the train where I was seated. I was dressed in a “Class A” U.S. Army uniform and my light blonde hair and tall frame really made me stand out among the rest of the passengers who were all Korean. I put my duffel bag on the overhead storage area above my head and took my seat between two Korean passengers. I knew no Korean and they knew no English, so the ride was a quiet one. I started counting the stops as it was the only way I had any idea of when I might be getting close to the town where I needed to get off. As we traveled south periodically I noticed towers outside the window with guards stationed at the top of the towers. At each stop the train would slow down to let passengers off, but it quickly started back up again and moved on. All signs were in Korean so I had no idea what towns I had passed as we traveled south.
When we came to the 12th stop I remembered that the sergeant told me it would be “about” 12 stops but the 12th stop came and went and I had no idea exactly when to get off. As we were approaching another town the train started to slow down again to let passengers off. From out of nowhere an older Korean woman dressed in traditional Korean attire (not a staff person on the train) appeared standing in the aisle facing me and motioned to my duffel bag in the luggage rack over my head. She didn’t speak English but I could tell she wanted me to take it down, so I got out of my seat and took it down. As the train came to a stop, the exit door to the cabin located close to my seat opened, and she picked up my duffel bag and threw it out the door onto the ground, and I got off the train. The train quickly started up again and was soon gone, and I was left standing there with my duffel bag wondering what I should do now. There was no one else around me, and as I looked around (the stop was in an area that looked like it was in the middle of a field), in the distance I could see a vehicle coming in my direction. It turned out to be a jeep with a man dressed in Army fatigues seated behind the steering wheel, and he stopped and asked me if I was PFC (my last name). I concurred that I was, so he picked up my duffel bag and we drove a couple of miles to the Army depot I was scheduled to stop at on my way to Pusan.
When I look back at that experience several decades ago, there was no doubt a bit of “divine intervention” helped me get to that U.S. Army depot since my instructions were very sketchy at best, and I had no idea when I was supposed to get off that train. As it turned out, I ended up being stationed at that Army depot instead of going on to Pusan, so I remained there for my tour of duty in South Korea.
No doubt my story could fit in the pages of “More Than Coincidence.” I liked the very first story in the book as when I read the story, it reminded me of my own story. This story is titled, “Lost and Found in Paris,” by Aminda Parafinik on pp. 1-3: Here is her story:
Lost And Found in Paris
by Aminda Parafinik
My heart pounded. My hands were clammy. I was on the verge of panic. The tangle of multicolored lines on the Paris Metro map made my head spin. I asked a ticket-booth attendant for help. He shot me a dismissive look. How could I have been so careless? The world never felt so big, and I never felt so small, so lost. I’d come to Paris in hopes of finding myself. Now I couldn’t even find my way back to my hostel.
“If you’re lost in Paris, just look for the Eiffel Tower,” another traveler told me when I arrived from Arizona. If only there were a guidepost to help me find my way in life! Two months earlier, I’d been downsized from my job as an editorial assistant, my second job since graduating from college with a degree in communications. I’d thought I would be climbing the ranks by twenty-five. Instead, I was out of work. I felt like a loser.
I dreamed of getting away. That’s when I got the idea for this trip. I’d been fascinated by “the City of Light” ever since I was a little girl. I had some money saved up. What better place was there to be inspired again?
I took in the awesome views from the top of the Eiffel Tower, gawked at the luxury shops along the Champs-Elysees, saw the magnificent Palace of Versailles. Today, though, after exploring exhibits at the Louvre and visiting the gargoyles at Notre Dame, I’d taken a wrong turn. The narrow streets surrounding the cathedral were like a maze. In the spirit of adventure, I kept going . . . until it got dark. I could see the Eiffel Tower, a finger of light, impossibly distant. I searched for more than an hour until I found what I thought was the right Metro stop, but it was for a different line then the one that let off near my hostel.
I turned away from the ticket booth and the reality of my situation hit me. I’d been crazy to spend my savings on this trip, trying to “find myself.” When–or if–I got home, then what? “Lord,” I whispered, “please help me. I am so lost.”
“Excusez moi.” A tall, brown-haired man startled me. A little older than me, clean-cut, dressed like a businessmen. “Can I help you?” he asked, with just a hint of a French accent.
“I need to get to Felix Faure,” I said, trying to keep my voice from quivering.
“Follow me,” he said. Normally, I wouldn’t but there was something about him. He seemed trustworthy. Confident. Besides, did I have a choice?
Striding through the dark streets, we made small talk. “Where are you from?” he asked. “The United States, obviously,” he added, smiling. “But where?”
“Phoenix,” I said, “It’s in Arizona, the Southwest . . .”
“Really?” he interrupted. “Have you heard of The Thunderbird School of Global Management?”
I vaguely remembered that name from a billboard near my freeway exit. Of all the things in Phoenix to ask about. “I don’t really know much about it,” I said.
He paused, then looked at me quizzically as if he wanted to continue. But by then we’d reached the Metro line I needed. “Hurry, you don’t want to miss your train,” he said. I thanked him, then dashed down the stairs. Before long, I was back at the hostel. The rest of my time in Paris was uneventful, even restful. Something about that encounter seemed to calm me.
Okay, time to get back to my life. My first week home, I sent out more resumes. Nothing.
That weekend, I was scanning the want ads when a position caught my eye. They needed someone with a communications degree, and the responsibilities matched what I’d done in the past. Program assistant for an executive MBA program. I liked the sound of that.
I liked the sound of the employer, too. The Thunderbird School of Global Management. Suddenly, the world seemed very small. I applied and was called in for an interview.
Guess who got the job? (Quote source, “More Than Coincidence,” pp. 1-3.)
The book is filled with stories like this one. Albert Einstein once stated, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous” (quote source here). I’m of the mind that “coincidences” happen to remind us of God and just how much He guides our steps.
In a response to the question, “Are there such things as coincidences?” GotQuestions.org gives us the biblical perspective to that question:
The word “coincidence” is used only once in the New Testament, and it was by Jesus Himself in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10:31, Jesus said, “And by a coincidence a certain priest was going down in that way, and having seen him, he passed over on the opposite side.” The word “coincidence” is translated from the Greek word “synkyrian,” which is a combination of two words: “sun” and “kurios.” “Sun” means “together with,” and “kurious” means “supreme in authority.” So a biblical definition of “coincidence” would be “what occurs together by God’s providential arrangement of circumstances.”
What appears to us as random chance is in fact overseen by a sovereign God who knows the number of hairs on every head (Luke 12:7). Jesus said that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father’s notice (Matthew 10:29). In Isaiah 46:9–11, God states unequivocally that He is in charge of everything: “I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”
When we consider life events, we tend to classify them as “important” or “unimportant.” Many people have no problem believing that God is in charge of the “big things” but assume that such a big God would not trouble Himself with the seemingly miniscule events of our everyday lives. However, that understanding is colored by our human limitations and not supported by Scripture. For God, there are no unimportant events. He does not need to conserve His strength because His power is limitless. His attention is never divided. If the Lord God tracks every sparrow (Matthew 10:29), then nothing is too small for His attention. He is often referred to as the Almighty (Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3; Job 13:3), a name denoting unrestricted power and absolute dominion.
Citing coincidence is how we humans explain unexpected events and surprise meetings. But just because we are taken by surprise does not mean that God is. Scripture is clear that God allows sinful humans to make mistakes and reap the consequences of those mistakes, but only a sovereign God could also promise that He will make “all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). In ways known only to God, He takes even our mistakes and unplanned events and weaves them together to fulfill His purposes.
In Old Testament times, God often used the Urim and Thummin, pieces of the high priest’s ephod, to help give guidance and instruction (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; 1 Samuel 30:7–8). In the New Testament, we see the apostles trusting God’s sovereignty when they cast lots to choose a new disciple to replace Judas (Acts 1:26). Though each of these means of communication seems insignificant, God has shown throughout Scripture that He can use the smallest object or event for His purposes. God does not seem to allow for “coincidence.” The administration of the universe is not based on serendipity. The Bible says that God’s purposes will prevail and that He is in control of even the most random event (Proverbs 19:21). Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” What may seem insignificant to us may be in fact a result of God’s omniscient power working on our behalf to accomplish His will in our lives. (Quote source here.)
“The Bible says that God’s purposes will prevail and that He is in control of even the most random event.” If we truly believe that statement, then we can take comfort that God is always in control regardless of our circumstances and our coincidences. . . .
Many are the plans in a person’s heart . . .
But it is the Lord’s purpose . . .
That prevails . . . . (Proverb 19:21)
YouTube Video: “Coincidence? I Think NOT!” from the movie, The Incredibles (2012):