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The Exit  

I was minding my own business on the golf course in Palm Springs, when I received a phone call from Craig Peterson.  Now, everyone knows that taking a phone call on the fairway is “just not done.”  But since I was waiting to tee off, I answered.  Craig was at church trying to figure out why several heaters were not working.  They were in the church offices.  He explained how he tested the power at the heaters and at the circuit breaker.  What he described sounded contradictory and I couldn’t visualize a solution. Talking to him later, I still didn’t have a solution.

It would be two weeks before I returned to Seattle.  Craig and JD Watson are very capable mechanics and troubleshooters.  If they were stumped, this had to be a difficult problem.  I, for my part, couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I thought about it during the day, and even at night.  I had dreams about it.  I dreamt about tripping over conduits in the attic of the church.  I kept running into dead ends, over and over.  I began to worry and dreaded coming home, knowing that troubleshooting these heaters was waiting for me.  “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” (Luke 12:25)  In fact, I was so worried, that I prayed about it.  Several times.  After all, He made all this.  I’m not too proud to ask for His help. 

Arriving at church Tuesday morning, I hoped for an easy solution.  JD walked me through what he and Craig had found.  There was power at the 240 volt circuit breaker; a white and red wire.  There was 120 volt power at the heaters, but not 240 volt power.  I scratched my head.  A few weeks ago, these were all working.  Suddenly, they stopped.  A broken wire?  A bad connection?  Where to start?  With JD’s help, we identified the breaker that controlled the heaters.  From there we followed the conduit up into the attic where it disappeared under a pile of insulation.  JD climbed up in the attic through the computer room.  I stood on the ladder and watched.  He nimbly moved around the attic, being careful to step on joists so he didn’t fall through the ceiling.  I used to crawl through attics.  I just don’t bend like that anymore.  However, I did provide encouragement, emotional support and helped hold the light. 

Soon, JD traced the conduit to a junction box in the hallway of the office.  I looked and there was an illuminated exit sign mounted to it.  “No way,” I said.  “We must have the wrong conduit.  They just wouldn’t put a heater circuit in the same junction box as an emergency circuit.”  I insisted that we must have traced the wrong conduit.  But JD persisted and insisted he was right.

Defeated, I agreed to check the junction box.  I looked at the exit sign.  At first, I couldn’t figure out how to remove it.  Now, I’m an experienced electrician.  And yet I’m having trouble with a simple exit sign!  Not a big confidence builder.  And I wasn’t even convinced that this was the right junction box.  With persistence, I got the exit sign down.  To my surprise, there were the mysterious white and red wires.  The white wires were held together by a red wire nut.  I pulled on it and heard a quiet “snap, crackle, pop.”  Fine for Rice Crispies but not for an electrical splice.  Bingo!  Finally, a smoking gun; a tangible clue.  And sure enough, that loose connection was enough to prevent the heaters from working.  JD provided a larger wire nut, and soon the heaters were working again.

Troubleshooting is always easy in hindsight.  I never expected a bad splice.  I would never have expected a splice in the exit sign junction box.  We were lucky to find the cause of the problem.  Or rather, it bordered on miraculous.  We literally stumbled on to it accidentally.  But was it an accident?  Or did God answer our prayers?  And if so, how?

Craig did all the initial legwork, collecting information and going through a process of elimination.  JD climbed through the attic, traced the conduit, and persisted in getting me to open the junction box.  Visually, the splice seemed fine until I moved it and heard the ”snap, crackle, pop.”  Usually, bad splices don’t make any noise.

Hence, I prefer to believe that God’s hand was in this effort.  Craig and JD did all the preliminary work.  They dragged me along, kicking and screaming, until I literally had the cause of the problem dropped in my lap.  I wouldn’t have found it without them.  And who is to say where God’s hand was at in all this?  Paul rightly credited Apollos and God for their roles in discipleship.  (1 Cor. 3:5-9)  While I may have changed the wire nut, I would never have found it without Craig and JD.  And, of course, God.

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

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