Me: What are you eating?
Prodigal: Some fried chicken!
Me: How does it taste?
Prodigal: It is better than an RC Cola and a Moon Pie!
Me: Well I hope the story I share will encourage you today.
This is from the book Beyond Our Selves by Catherine Marshall
On the evening of December 7, 1946, a businessman, Stuart, checked into the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. He asked for and got a room on the tenth floor above the city’s traffic.
Sometime after retiring, Stuart was wakened by noise in the corridor. A strange red glow was reflected in the sky outside his window. Fire! Heart pounding, he opened his bedroom door into the corridor only to have billowing clouds of suffocating smoke all but engulf him. Backing into the room, he hastily shut the door and the transom and rushed to eh window to fill his lungs with air.
What he saw there was even more terrifying. Ten stories below a crowd was gathering, milling around fire trucks. Behind him, he could hear screams and cries for help.
Fear so consumed him that it was like a weight on his chest. But years before he had formed the habit of setting aside a time each morning for prayer and practice in listening to the Voice inside. From long experience, he knew that he could rely on God in any emergency, even in a burning building.
He retreated to the center of the room and forced himself to begin speaking slowly the Ninety-first Psalm: “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee…”
No evil befall thee? In this situation? How could he claim that for himself?
As he repeated this verse, suddenly his thoughts cleared. God is my very life, he reasoned. Therefore that life is eternal. “I hereby put myself in Your care and keeping,” he prayed. “Let Your presence by my fortress. I await Your instructions as to the way out of this crisis.”
“The first sure sign that God was with me in that fire-surrounded room was that after this prayer my fear just left me, siphoned off like poison,” Stuart wrote me later “Judging from the sounds around me and the increasing heat in the room, the situation was getting worse by the minute. Yet on the inside was a center of calm, such calmness that I really could hear the inner Voice.”
The first instruction was that he should pull on his clothes. The next clear suggestion was to make a rope of the sheets, all blankets, even the bedspread. As he tied knots, he knew that the rope would not reach more than a third of the way to the street. But he followed instructions, sure he would be told what to do next.
As he put the rope out the window, he heard the Voice say, “No–not yet, Trust Me–”
It seemed as if the delay might be fatal. Again the man started to throw the rope out the window. Again the clear order came, “Not yet….Wait.”
It took will power to obey, because now black smoke was seeping into the room. But long ago he had learned to trust the Voice of God; it had led him out of other predicaments.
Finally the Voice said, “Now is the time. Put the rope out the window. Tie it around the center part of the window frame and climb out.”
As Stuart climbed over the sill, the wood was getting hot. In his mind rang the words, “God is my life and my salvation….I shall not fear….God is my life—-”
Down the twenty feet he slid, but his rope reached only the eighth-floor level. What could he do now? Once again he deliberately turned his thought to God, his fortress. “God is my life….My life….God is my life….”
Across the face of the building he saw a fireman extending a ladder to the eighth floor. That was as far as the ladder would reach. Even so it was still too far away, one room to the right.
Suddenly the fireman saw Stuart hanging there. He signaled him and swung a rope hanging from a window above toward him. The first time the rope came close; the next time not so close. How could he grasp the swinging rope and still cling to the knotted bedclothes? Once again the rope hurled through the air. This time Stuart caught it.
He took a deep breath, twisted the rope around his right hand, let go the knotted bedclothes, and swung in a wide arc across the burning wall. The fireman at the top of the ladder leaned over as far as he dared, caught the end of the rope on which the man dangled, pulled it over. For a moment both men balanced precariously on the slender ladder. Then Stuart climbed down to safety.
He looked up. His improvised rope was already burning. Flames billowed from the window of the room he had just left. Yet here he was, safe on the ground with no injuries except some rope burns on the palms of his hands. God’s timing had been perfect.
The next day the nation’s newspapers carried ghastly pictures of the disaster and its victims, calling it one of the nation’s worst fires. One hundred twenty-seven people lost their lives; many more were injured.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Jennifer Van Allen