Birthday Lights and Sirens!

I turned 67 years old yesterday and after attending a wedding in Orlando last weekend, we drove to Ft. Lauderdale for several days to visit some of our old haunts. We have been coming to Ft. Lauderdale for more than 40 years and in our younger days, we used to rent places for a month or more to enjoy the beach, the sun and the tennis.

However, for a number of years now, we have stayed at a resort on the beach in southern Ft. Lauderdale. Janet has been going to Florida with her family since she was a young girl so she has even more history than I do. We visit the movie theaters, shops in the Galleria mall, travel up to Boca Raton and have a wonderful time. It was our intent to spend my birthday in Lauderdale this year – re-living some of the many things we have done throughout the years.

We went to sleep on Tuesday night anticipating what we would do for my birthday on Wednesday. Little did we realize that we would be awakened by fire alarms and sirens at 3:40 am. We have never been through something like this before and it was quite different from our expectations.

For starters, we were instructed to immediately evacuate the building and leave our things in our rooms. Do NOT use the elevators and walk down the nearest stair case to the ground floor. The voice through the speakers was deafening, especially when coupled with the sirens, fire alarms and lights that were all a part of the resort alarm system. At first, I thought some weird alarm had gone off on my phone but I soon realized that wasn’t the case.

In reality, it was more scary than you would think. We were on the 14th floor and the fire was on the roof one floor up – we later found out that an air conditioning unit had caught on fire and was delivering smoke through the ventilation system. I searched for my wallet and Janet found her room key. As soon as we opened the door to our room, we could see the smoke haze in the hallway and could smell what clearly seemed to be an electrical fire of some kind.

People were pleasant and helped each other but it was clear that this was not a drill. On top of that, when awakened from a deep sleep, you tend to be a little groggy and the distractions of all the noise made the whole event even more confusing. We were a long way up and it took us a while to finally reach ground level. The fire trucks and ambulances were arriving and setting up a perimeter to see where the fire was located. I must say that the Ft. Lauderdale Fire Department was awesome – very helpful assisting people out and quickly determining the cause of the fire on the roof.

We all waited patiently for things to settle down and within an hour or so, the fire was out and we were allowed to return to our rooms. I was too awake to head back to bed right then and it occurred to me that through all the years of travel, staying in hotel rooms, I have never been through a hotel fire. It was scary…

To several other hotel guests, I made the joke that I hadn’t had lights and sirens on my birthday since I was a little kid. Of course, it garnered the laughs that I was looking for – and relieved a little of the tension that everyone was feeling.

Janet and I never doubted that God would get us through this crisis but I do want to stress that it was nothing like I thought it would be. The reality is very different from how I had anticipated I would react if I was ever in a hotel that had to be evacuated in the middle of the night. That part bothered me. It really showed me that it is tough to prepare for something like this – we must depend on God to get us through.

There are a multitude of verses that have to do with God’s protection. I have chosen Psalm 3:3-5 for tonight. The psalmist tells us, “But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.”

That’s exactly how I felt when I finally went back to sleep and woke up on my birthday morning. God sustains us… My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to turn to him in times of trouble and worry. Not only anxiety, but physical worry as well. My prayer is that we can all set our cares on Jesus and ask Him to carry the load for us when we are confused and scared. He is there for us. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

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