Amusement Park: Roller Coaster

Amusement Park: Roller Coaster

Without warning, her stomach jumped to her throat as the car dropped straight down. Had they run off the track? How far down was it? Did it matter? At the rate they were falling, the end would be disastrous. The car would be crushed, and she might even die. Might? How could she NOT die?

“Jesus! Do something!”0528201352 (2)

If He answered, she didn’t know. She couldn’t hear anything over her screams. She gripped Jesus with both hands, but that didn’t seem to help. She could still feel the stomach lurching effect of the free fall. Things were still rushing past, totally out of her control.

Just as she felt they were surely about to hit the bottom, the track curved into a gentler slope, and then straightened, before climbing back up.

Jesus motioned with His hand. “See, I’m still here. No matter how far you dropped, I never left you. You were not in any danger, regardless of how you felt.”

Her breaths coming fast and shallow, all Amalia could do was nod. Easy for Him to say, but what if there was another drop? Of course there will be another drop. This was a roller coaster. Still, she hadn’t seen this one coming, and probably wouldn’t see the next one. How was she expected to enjoy this ride if she never knew what was coming?

“Breathe, Amalia, Focus on My presence, and breathe in My peace.”

After a few moments, her breathing under control again, Amalia turned her wide eyes to her Friend. “Why didn’t You warn Me?”

“I did. I told you this was the biggest roller coaster you’ll ever ride.”

“And that was enough? Why couldn’t You have told me about this drop. Especially right before we hit it.”

“What would you have done differently?”

“I could have prepared for it.”

“How?”

“I could have… I would have…” What? What would she have done if she had known about the coming drop? Hold on tighter? No, her grip couldn’t have been any tighter than it had been. Position herself for the fall? No, she was already seated firmly, and buckled in tightly. Watch for the coming drop so she wouldn’t be caught by surprise? No, Jesus was right. She already knew drops were part of a roller coaster ride. So what would she have done? Worry. She would have spent those moments leading up to the fall worrying about what was going to happen, instead of enjoying was happening. She would have missed out on the present fun time with Jesus if she had spent it worrying about the future.

“Exactly,” Jesus answered as if she had been thinking out loud. “Worrying just steals your joy.”

“Well, at least that death drop is behind us now.” She froze as a thought entered her mind.  “We’re not going to have to do it again, are we?

Jesus laughed. “No, not that drop, but there are other drops ahead. And twists and turns and bumps. And even some flips. They are all part of life. The drops, though, seem to be the hardest. Those are the times in your life where you feel like the bottom falls out. Like when a catastrophic illness wipes out your bank account and leaves you in deep debt. Or when a trusted friend betrays you, leaving you confused and hurt and angry. In those times, no matter how hard it is, keep a firm grip on Me.  You will not be destroyed, because I am with you through every moment, and you will rise again on the other side. Circumstances may change, but I do not. I love you, and will never leave you. Ever.”

Jesus’s words were comforting, but Amalia wondered why there had to be killer drops in the first place. The kiddie roller coaster didn’t have them. She knew because that was one of her favorite rides when she was younger. Just because a roller coaster was bigger didn’t mean it had to be scarier. And a roller coaster ride with Jesus should fun. Didn’t He start off this whole amusement park adventure telling her that He wanted her to have fun? So, if the drops had to be there, why not at least make them less scary? Why couldn’t they just be gentle slopes instead of deep cliffs?

Again Jesus responded as if He could hear her thoughts, which of course He could. “Amalia, I never promised you a life without problems. Life is full of problems. What I did promise was that I would be with you through every one of them. I could level out the track – and I will do that in some places – but most of the time I allow the drops because I use them for your good. Sometimes to teach you. Sometimes to discipline you. Sometimes to grow your faith. There are other reasons, too, but no matter what the reason, all of it will work for your good. Once you learn this, once you get to where you fully trust Me no matter how deep the drop, you will find that there is joy in dropping with Me. You will be able to experience Me in ways that you can’t on the more level parts of the ride.”

Amalia eyed the track ahead of them. She didn’t know how much longer the ride would last. She didn’t know how many twists, turns, flips, or drops were still ahead. But what she did know was that Jesus was sitting next to her. And if He wasn’t afraid of the drops, then she was going to learn to find that joy He spoke of no matter how many drops it took.

“Okay, Jesus, let’s do this.”

 

–  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

James says to count it all joy to meet various trials. I believe this includes killer falls on roller coasters. Has anyone learned to do that? Do you have any advice for those of us just learning?

 

Scriptures:

Ps 71:20  You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Heb 13:8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Holy Poison

Something’ was wrong. I didn’t know what it was, but could sense something happening in me. My ten-year-old body was becoming increasingly hot, like I was burning from the inside out. Which didn’t make sense because I wasn’t in the sun. The approaching evening, although not cold, was not hot either. And besides, I was in my bedroom. And yet, I could feel the internal fire growing by the minute. This was not good.

My thoughts flew from the fire in me to the sudden sounds of wild commotion coming from the kitchen. One of my siblings was crying. Maybe more than one. My mom was talking in a higher than normal pitch, And the sound of many small feet running across the wooden floor was accompanied by shrieks and shouts.

It didn’t take long to find out why. We had all been poisoned. All six of us kids as well as my mom. Everyone seemed to be reacting to the poison in slightly different ways. Whereas a few of us felt the fiery poison on the inside, some had no internal discomfort. However, their faces were turning increasingly red, and, as funny as it seemed to us at the time, the only indication of the poison flowing through one of my brothers was his two bright red ears.

My dad, who had just gotten home from work, drove us to the emergency room, where 0526201852 (2)we were all given a small cup of something to drink. “To make you throw up,” the nurse told us. “That will get rid of the poison.” Everyone swallowed their cup of something. Everyone except me. I didn’t want to throw up. I didn’t like throwing up. And I didn’t like unknown liquids. So I held my cup, and wished I was anywhere but there.

As my mom and siblings took turns throwing up, I heard my parents discussing how it must have been the frozen homemade applesauce we had eaten at dinner. They were talking about something bad being in that applesauce. Maybe too much preservative. I don’t know. But whatever it was, we didn’t taste it or see it. And yet, it was definitely hurting us.

Finally everyone had purged. Except me. I still clung to that cup of strange liquid in spite of all the encouraging, shaming, bribing, and threatening my parents did. I could handle all that without caving in. What I couldn’t handle was the threat from the nurse: “If you don’t throw up by the time I get back, I’m going to have to give you a shot.” I dreaded needles more than strange liquid, so I downed the cup, and soon became one of the purged.

The next day, I looked suspiciously at the containers of tainted applesauce as my mom pulled them from the freezer. They didn’t look any more evil now than they had looked or tasted the night before.

“Mom, how do you know they’re poisoned? They look just like the good applesauce we’ve eaten before.”

“I know they’re poisoned because I reread the directions on the box of preservatives.  I got the directions wrong.”

“Can’t we eat them anyway,” my brother asked. “They taste too good to get rid of. We can just go throw up again later.”

I understood what my brother felt. It did seem like such a waste of something delicious. But then I remembered the consequence of allowing the bad as well as the good into my mouth. So I nodded agreement with my mom as she told him, “Nope, not worth it, Better to make a new batch, and this time pay better attention to the instructions.”

 

–   –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

 

True story. I might have gotten the timing slightly off, but my mother did accidentally poison us with too much of a preservative in some applesauce she had made. She didn’t mean to, and she felt really bad about if for a long time. But it happened.

As does spiritual poisoning. Sometimes good sounding teachings actually contains poison that will hurt our spirits. Not all, but many of these teachers, preachers, ministers, priests, friends, whatever don’t mean to hurt us. They often don’t even know the poison is there. But if they use the Word incorrectly, such as taking scriptures out of context, they can contaminate their message with what I call holy poison. It looks, sounds, and tastes just as spiritual as the rest of that biblical teaching, except it’s not. We may not recognize it right away, but eventually all who ingest it will pay the consequences.

We can learn to discern holy poison by knowing what the Bible says.  In a way, it’s like when I was learning to hunt shark teeth. At first I was frequently tricked by broken shells that looked like teeth, but the more teeth I found and studied, the easier and faster it became to discern between shells and teeth. The same hold true for God’s Word. The better we know the Bible, the easier to spot something that is contrary to it.

We also need to pay attention to the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.  Jesus said His Spirit would guide us into all truth. So, if we are listening, He will alert us when we come in contact with something poisonous to our spirits.

But what about the poison we may have already ingested?  What about erroneous doctrines and ideas we accepted years ago that may be having an effect on our spiritual life now? It’s not too late. If we are sincere in our desire to be cleaned from the poison, and we ask God to show anything unclean in us, He will answer that request. If He reveals something, we can either allow the poison to continue to contaminate our beliefs, or we can accept His cup of antidote and purge it. Purging may not be pretty or dignified, and it will probably cause some discomfort, but – at least to me – it is better than something more drastic. Like a needle. God is a big God. I can only imagine how big His needle is.

 

 

Behind the Story

I wrote Holy Poison with the hope that it may help us, me included, to be more discerning of what we allow into our belief systems, and to ask God to reveal anything we hold on to that we shouldn’t. Years ago He had me examine what I believed, and I ended up I purging some big lies that I had grown up with, such as the belief that only Catholics were going to heaven. Recently He has started working to cleanse me from some subtler wrong beliefs that I’ve held in my heart for years. They sound and feel just as biblical as the rest of my beliefs – many even have scriptures to base them on – and yet they are not true. It turns out that those scriptures had been taken out of context. Facing those errors, and letting go of them, has not been easy or comfortable. But my greatest desire is to be completely pleasing to God, so I will continue to drink the cup and purge until I am clean.

What about you? Has God had you examine your own beliefs? If so, how? If not, how do you feel about the need to know what we believe and why we believe it? If you feel comfortable enough, please comment below. I would love to read your story!

 

 

Scriptures

Ps 51:6-7 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Ps 26:2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind.

John: 14:16-17    And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you..

John 16:13  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

1 Timothy 4:1a Now the Spirit expressly says that in the later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared…

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:6-7 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Hebrews 5:13-14 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the world of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Philippians 1:9-10  And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ

Amusement Park: Ferris Wheel

Amusement Park: Ferris Wheel

“Are You sure we’re safe?” Amalia sat still, eyes staring straight ahead, not daring to move a muscle, fearing even the smallest twitch would cause the pod they were sitting in to rock dangerously.

“Perfectly safe. You’re with Me, remember?”

“Yeah, but I don’t like heights.”

“You did when you were on the mountain. Remember the view from the top?”

“That was different. I was standing on solid ground, not sitting in a rising pod that could flip over at any moment.”

“It won’t, but let’s say it did. You’d still be fine. Even upside down, with that seat belt, you’re not going down.”

Amalia wasn’t convinced. “What if the seat belt isn’t enough?”

“Is that why you’re holding on so tightly to this handle bar?.” He touched her fist, white from its death grip on the bar. “You don’t have to hold on to it at all.”

“Easy for You to say. If we flipped over, You’d probably stay right there on the seat while I plummet to my death. Gravity has no hold on You.”

“Amalia… Amy, my love… I thought You trusted Me. What did I tell you when we sat down in this pod?”

“You said this seat belt would keep me safe.”

“And do you believe Me?”

“Um… yes…”

“Then why are you still holding on to the handle bar?”

Amalia didn’t know what to say. Jesus never lied, and if He said the seat belt was enough, then it must be. But shouldn’t she also do her part to keep herself safe, like keeping perfectly still and holding on to the stronger-looking bars she could see right in front of her? She knew the belt was fastened across her lap, she had seen and felt it as Jesus buckled her in when they first sat down, but now, with her gaze frozen straight ahead, she could no longer see it. How could she trust something she couldn’t see? What if it wasn’t fastened securely anymore?0522201752 (2)

“Amalia, where is your trust right now?” Jesus asked as they came to a stop at the top of the Ferris wheel.

“It’s on You,” she answered quickly.

“Is it really?”

“Yes.”

“Then let go.”

“You don’t mean that! What’s wrong with me holding on?”

“It shows where your trust really is.”

“But I trust You. I wouldn’t even be here without You. Holding the bars just make me feel better. Like I have some control.”

“That’s just it. You have no control. There is nothing you can do, or not do, that would save you if this pod tipped over. Only the belt I placed on you can do that.”

“Well, if the bar can’t keep me from falling, then why is it there?”

“It forms a sort of boundary. It’s not meant to keep you from falling, but to keep your ride more enjoyable. As long as you stay behind it, there’s little chance of the pod tipping over. But if you go beyond it, there’s a good chance the pod will begin to move in ways you don’t like, and, if it tips drastically, you may experience loss. Not loss of your life, because the belt is still on, but loss of loose things which may fall, such as a hat, sunglasses, or things in your pocket or purse.”

“Oh.”

“Look around, Amalia. There is nothing as invigorating as riding a Ferris wheel with Me. There’s so much you can see from here. It’s almost like you can see into forever.”

Amalia loosened her grip on the bars, but didn’t let go. She slowly turned her eyes from side to side. Jesus was right. The sight was amazing! The amusement park laid out in front of her, leading to streets and highways filled with people journeying towards their destinations, and even further, the greens and browns of fields and forests. And the  endless sky! It was like she was part of it, and yes, it felt like looking into forever.

But could she let go of the handle bars? Could she put all her trust in the seat belt Jesus had fastened on her? Could she let go of her fear, and trust what He had told her?

As the pod slowly descended, she found herself relaxing. Yes, maybe she could let go. Jesus had always been trustworthy. The belt was there. She was safe. And the closer she got to the ground, the safer she felt. She was just about to let go when the pod began rising again. Fear filled her one more, and her fists tightened on their own accord as the ground receded. She knew in her head that she was still safe regardless of what she saw around her, but her heart was not agreeing. Doubts flooded her. What if she had heard Jesus wrong? What if she had misunderstood His words? What if being safe from falling required both the belt and the handle bars? Wasn’t she responsible for doing what she could, too?

“Jesus, help me,” she whispered. “I want to enjoy this ride. I want to trust what You say. But I’m still afraid.”

“Amalia,” came back the gentle voice. “You have to choose. Where will you put your trust? Will you put it in what you do? Or will you put it in what I have done?”

Put that way, Amalia knew what her decision would be. Yet it didn’t come easy for her. Her grip on the handle bars tightened and loosened in time with the rising and lowering of the pod as they continued revolving in the giant vertical circle. Eventually, though, she got tired of the struggle, and knew the time had come. She had to choose. More than that, she had to act on her choice.

“Okay, Jesus. I choose what You did, not what I do.” She took a deep breath, and then quickly, before she could change her mind, took her hands off the bar. Immediately she grabbed Jesus’ hands with both of hers. “Hold me, Lord. I’m completely depending on You.”

“I’m always holding you, my sweet Amalia.” Jesus’ delighted voice washed over her, filling her heart with peace. “Now we can enjoy this ride together.”

As the Ferris wheel continued to turn, Amalia found herself doing just that. Talking about what they saw, snuggling up against each other, and laughing at each other’s jokes, they became totally engrossed in the ride. From time to time, Amalia forgot about – or chose to go beyond – the boundary, and leaned out over the bar to see something that caught her attention, causing the pod to tip. But each time, she apologized to Jesus for rocking their pod, and it would return to the gentle upright swaying that she had grown to love.

Way too soon, the ride slowed and came to an end. Amalia sighed as she exited the pod. Would any other ride here even come close to the joy of this one?

“Jesus, can we ride the Ferris wheel again?”

“Yes, and, actually, in a way, you’ll always be riding it. But right now I have another ride in mind. Are you ready?”

“With You, I’m ready for anything!”

Little did she know how quickly she would regret those words.

 

 

Application:

Have you ever thought about where your trust for salvation is? Or how much of your trust is in Jesus? I struggled with that as a new Christian years ago, and wonder how many other people did the same. I’d love to hear your story!

 

Biblical Basis

Eph 6:14a  Stand, therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth… (or in Amalia’s case: “Sit there…”)

John 14:6  Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 

Eph. 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ps 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Amusement Park: Food Booths

Amusement Park: Food Booths

Amalia’s mouth watered at the tantalizing smells wafting out of the food booths. Grabbing Jesus’ hand, she pulled Him with her as she headed for the nearest booth.

“Oooo… I love cotton candy! Can we get some, p0517201823 (2)lease?”

“Cotton candy is pretty sweet, but is that what you really need right now?”

“No, but it sure does taste good!”

“That it does.” He laughed. “And there are times when cotton candy is the perfect thing to eat. Right now, though, I think you should have something a bit more substantial.”

Pulling her gaze from the rows of softly colored sparkly treats, she followed Jesus as He walked towards the next booth. Shiny apples, coated with creamy caramel, and covered with a variety of fun toppings, greeted her gaze.

“Yummy! These are perfect! Sweet, yet apples also full of vitamins I want the one with chopped nuts… no, the one with the cookie crumbs…”

“These are more nourishing, that’s true.  They make a wonderful snack, and will satisfy you for the moment, but you’ll soon be hungry again. Aren’t you hungry for a full meal?”

“Yes, but these look really good.”

“If you really want one, I’m not going to stop you. You have the freedom to choose whatever you want. But I know there’s something better for you a little further on.”

Amalia looked from Jesus to the caramel apples, and back to Jesus. “Oh…  okay… You’re probably right.”

They passed several more booths offering tasty snacks – and each time Amalia had to resist the temptation to settle on something less than what Jesus wanted for her.

Finally they approached a booth offering a wide variety of meals. “Ah, here you go.” Jesus said. “Just what you need.”

Amalia frowned at the menu board. Despite the names, such as Hamburger Heaven, Happy Hot Dog, Taco Tower, and Perfect Pizza,  none sounded as fun as the treats they had passed. “Which do I have I choose?”

“That’s totally up to you. They each have a meat or protein, and some vegetables, and that’s important to build your body. If you only ate sweets, your body would grow weak.” Jesus paused, and then added, “You know, choosing what to read in the Bible is kind of like choosing what to eat. You need to read more than just the sweet, fun scriptures. You know, the satisfying ones that make you feel good. There’s nothing wrong with those, in fact, they’re quite important. But you also need to read the meatier verses. The ones that you have to chew on – the ones that make you have to think and sometimes make hard choices. You may not like them as much, and they may not go down as easily as a milkshake, but they are also very important for your spiritual health.”

Amalia thought about that for a few minutes. “Hmmm… I like some foods better than others, and some foods I don’t like at all. It’s the same with scriptures. I don’t like the ones that talk about being persecuted for doing right, or having to control my body and mind, or of God’s jealousy and judgment. I much prefer the ones about God loving me and taking care of me. But if I only read the pleasant ones, I wouldn’t have a balanced view of God or of living a spiritual life.”

“Exactly.”

“Oh, oh, oh..” Amalia almost danced. “I know something else! Just like treats are fine in between the meals that I need for a strong and healthy body, short readings, such as Verse of the Day and daily devotionals, are good, but need to be in between longer readings, such as whole chapters at a time. And, just like I need to eat a wide variety of foods for optimum physical health, I can do that spiritually by reading through the whole Bible.”

She looked back at the menu board with a new attitude. “That Blazing Barbeque sandwich plate with the salad and sweet potato fries looks pretty good! And then…” she turned to Jesus with a grin, “we’ll go get some cotton candy.”

 

 

The Bible Says…

The Bible tells us to increase in knowledge of God.

Col 1:10   so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

 

One way we do that is by reading God’s Word, which is sometimes compared to eating.

Ps 119:103  How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Ps 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Proverbs 2 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 2:10 for wisdom comes into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant for your soul.

Jer 3:15  And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Rev. 3:20  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

 

Using that analogy, I thought it would be interesting to compare the way we read the Bible to the way we eat. Thus Amalia’s lesson with the food today.

 

How do you feed upon God’s Word?

 

 

 

 

 

Amusement park: Puppet Show

Amusement park: Puppet Show

The sound of lively music greeted Amalia and Jesus as the merry-go-round slowed to a stop. The fast, happy notes hinted at something fun that was about to happen, and Jesus and Amalia decided to check it out. Along the way they walked through drifting scents of popcorn, barbecue grills, and funnel cakes.

“Mmm… that’s smells delicious! Can we get something to eat next?” Amalia asked, taking a big sniff.

“Sure.” Jesus grinned at her as her stomach gave out a loud rumble. “Sounds like your stomach agrees with your nose.”

A few minutes later, they found a group of chairs lined up in front of a curtained stage. Some of the chairs were occupied by a few people, but most chairs were empty. Jesus led Amalia to a couple of chairs in the first row. Just as they sat down, the music stopped, the curtain opened, and a man walked to the center of the stage.

“Hello, ladies and gentlemen! I am thrilled that you are here! We have a special treat for you today. The Teppup family has invited you to join them as they work in their garden. Mr. Teppup is digging up the ground with the help of his older daughter, while the younger two kids are helping their mother with the flats of small plants. It seems they are having a wonderful family bonding experience…” The man hesitates as the sound of yelling comes from behind the curtain. “Or maybe not. We’d better go see what’s happening.” He motions to the curtain, which opens as he backs his way off stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Teppup family!”

Amalia smiled when she saw the family. She loved puppets! This was going to be great!

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“I want to plant the purple flowers!” yelled a small girl. “Purple is my favorite color!”

“No, I chose them first, so they’re mine!” the smaller boy yelled back while grabbing the flowers out of her hands.

“Mo-om! Make him give me the purple ones!”

“That’s enough. From both of you. I’LL decide who plants what. Right now I want you to work together to get all the plants out of the flat regardless of the color of the flowers.”

With some grumbling, and a little pushing, the kids got back to work. The mother sighed, “Those kids must hate me. They’re always making my life hard,” as she turned around and continued removing the small plants from her flat. Sometimes she could slip the plant easily from the flat, loosen its roots, and lay it on a tray. But more often the plants didn’t come out without a lot of tugging, shaking, and prodding. And these plants didn’t always make it out in one piece. Mrs. Teppup got increasingly frustrated and began complaining against people who pack plants in stupid flats that make it impossible to get the plants out without damaging them. Suddenly a squeal erupted from behind her, and she turned just in time for a small plant to crash into her face. The kids, covered in dirt, were pointing to each other.

 “It’s her fault!”

“He did it!”

“No I didn’t ! You did!”

Mrs. Teppup groaned, and then said, “Both of you – get inside and clean up. And don’t come back out until you can get along.” She picked up the tray, took one last look at the mess her kids had made, then walked to the garden plot her husband and older daughter had just finished tilling.

“How’s it going over here?” She asked as she set the tray on the ground.

“From the sound of it, better than it’s going over there with you and the kids.”

“Yeah,” the older daughter agreed. “Those two are always a pain.”

“I didn’t say that,” Mr. Teppup said. “I said…”

“It doesn’t matter,” Mrs. Teppup interrupted. “Let’s not get into another debate. Is the ground ready?”

“Yes it is. And we did good, didn’t we dad?” the girl answered.

“It’s perfect,” he said as he touched the dirt. “You can start planting whenever you want.”

“Aren’t you going to help?” Mrs. Teppup, eyebrows raised, looked from father to daughter.

“Um… I thought we just had to dig up the weeds…” the girl said. “I… have some… things I need to do.”

“And the football game is about to start,” Mr. Teppup said. “You knew that.”

“But I thought… forget it. You do whatever you want. I don’t need you.” She bent down, picked up a plant, and shoved it into the dirt. In a low voice, she grumbled, “They’re just like everyone else – always letting me down. They…”

 

Amalia stopped listening and turned to Jesus. “I thought this was supposed to be funny. But it’s not. I don’t want to watch anymore. Can we leave?”

“I agree with you. Let’s go.”

They got up quietly, and headed back towards the food area. As they walked, Jesus asked Amalia a question.

“What was Mrs. Teppup’s main problem?”

Amalia wasn’t sure. “Her family?”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because the kids kept fighting and her husband and older daughter left her to plant the flowers by herself.”

“I’m sure Mrs. Teppup would have agreed with you. But think a little deeper. What was really happening?”

“Well, the kids each wanted the purple flowers… Mrs. Teppup was complaining about everything, and Mr. Teppup and the older daughter wanted to go do their own things… so… maybe they were all thinking about themselves, and not each other.”

“Right. What should Mrs. Teppup do about that?”

“Trade them in for new family members. Or treat them like they are treating her, and not do anything for them.”

“Really?”

“I guess not. Maybe have a family meeting. She could tell the others how she feels when they act that way.”

“That’s a good idea. But there’s an even better, more important, one.”

Amaila thought, but couldn’t come up with any other ideas that topped this one. “I give up. What?”

“Mrs. Teppup’s struggle is not really against her husband and children. It’s against the unseen puppeteers who are controlling the strings. So she should pray. ”

Amalia laughed. “Of course! They are just puppets!”

“But it’s kind of like that with people, too. There are spiritual forces influencing how people act. These forces don’t actually control people like the puppeteers control the puppets, but they can influence people to think and act in ways that may bother other people. Or may make someone feel more bothered than they should be.”

“So Mrs. Teppup should look past what she sees to what she can’t see, and pray?”

“Exactly.”

“But pray what? That God makes her family act better?”

“Well, if she prayed that God changed their hearts, including her own, to be turned towards Him, and if she looked for ways to share His love with them, the end result would be a more loving family.”

“But what about the spiritual forces?”

“God will fight those battles for her, if she trusts Him to do so, and doesn’t try to do it on her own.”

“One more question,” Amalia said, sniffing the air. “Can we go eat now?”

 

 

 

Scripture

Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

2 Cor 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Philippians 2:4  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

Amusement Park: Merry-Go-Round

Amusement Park: Merry-Go-Round

Amalia didn’t know how to answer Jesus. Go on another ride? She was just barely recovering from the first one. If all the rides here were like the Haunted House, she didn’t know if she could take another ride.

“Can we just sit somewhere? I think I need some time before attempting another ride with You.”

“My thoughts exactly. And I know just the place.”

He led her across the park towards the sound of organ music. When she saw the ride He was heading for, she relaxed. This was perfect. A bunch of horses going up and down – just up and down – while rotating around a large colorful column. Even better, behind a few of the horses were carts that were not moving at all.

“I want to ride on a cart.” Amalia pointed, determined to have as much peace as she could on this ride. The less movement, the less chance something crazy would happen.

“Good idea.”

The ride was pretty much what Amalia expected, with two exceptions. The cart was not quite as comfortable as it had looked, and it wasn’t as smooth. No lying down and sleeping here. As long as she sat up, she could deal with the hard seat, and she had already learned to accept bumps so those didn’t bother her. Instead, she enjoyed focusing on the different parts of the park as they came into her vision. It almost seemed as if she was stationary and the world was rotating around her.

After a while, Amalia’s focus shifted, and she became fascinated with the horses she could see in front of her. They were always moving. At first it looked like they were all doing the same thing. Up. Down. Up. Down. But as she looked closer, she notices something surprising. No two horses looked alike, or followed the same pattern. The red one went up only part way before heading back down. The blue one stayed higher than the others, never making it all the way down. The green one stayed near the floor for longer time periods before heading back up.  And the brown one went up and down at a faster pace than the others. Intrigued with her discovery, she turned to Jesus.0508201945 (2)

“Have You noticed the horses are all moving in different ways, even though they are all going in the same direction?”

“Yup. That’s what they were created to do. Just like people. There are ups and downs in everyone’s life. Some people, though, seem to stay down longer than up, while some people never seem to get all the way down at all. Some people seem to travel the ups and downs at a leisurely pace, while others race through them. None of them are better or worse than the others, just different. It’s easiest to see that when you sit back and look at the big picture, like we’re doing now.”

“So, if I were on one of the horses…”

“You would see the movement around you, but your own movement might make it harder to see the pattern. It’s good to sit back with Me from time to time to see this, otherwise you might be tempted to compare your horse with the others.”

Amalia could see the point He was making. And then she thought of her own point.

“They’re all going around the same thing – that center column. Doesn’t it contain the motor? And doesn’t the motor supply the power to make these horses move? Wouldn’t that be like God supplying what we need to live this life as long as we stay connected to Him?”

Jesus’ eyes twinkled as He nodded at her. “Excellent! And those who keep God centered will always be close to Him.”

Amalia sat back, delighting in His praise. She knew sooner or later this ride would end, but for now, she was content to be right where she was.

 

 

Scriptures

2 Cor 10:12  Not that we care to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

1 Cor 7:17a  Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, Seventh Room – Bumps

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, Seventh Room – Bumps

Amalia was pleasantly surprised to find herself in another beautiful room. The murals that were painted on the walls, ceiling, and floor were so realistic that she felt as if they were on a gently winding country road lined on both sides by trees, lush green fields full of colorful flowers, and, in the distance, glistening blue lakes. She could even hear the sounds of birds calling to each other, feel a breeze on her face, and, every now and then, she could hear the babbling of streams flowing over rocks. Amazing what technology could do. This room was more in line with what she expected a haunted house ride should be. Everything was explainable. She sighed. This is how a ride with Jesus should be.

Grateful for the chance to rest after the strenuous climb of the previous room, Amalia settled back in her seat. She closed her eyes, and let the vibration of the car running smoothly on the track lull her into a dream state. She heard Jesus’ voice a few times, but it seemed to be coming from so far away that she easily dismissed it in favor of her delicious drowsiness.

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The car gave a sudden lurch as if it had clattered across something in its path. Amalia opened one eye, but, not seeing anything to worry about, closed it again. Whatever the bump was, it wasn’t something to be concerned about. But then they went over another bump, and another. Each time the bump seem to be larger until Amalia was disturbed enough to open her eyes and sit up.

“Jesus, what’s going on?”

“Just some bumps.”

Amalia frowned. “Those bumps are messing up our ride.”

“Really?”

“Yes, they’re very uncomfortable. Can You make it stop?”

“What? The ride?”

Amalia stared at Him. “Jesus, You know what I mean. Make the bumps stop.”

“Why would I do that?”

“So they aren’t bothering us.”

“They aren’t bothering Me.”

“Fine. So that they’re aren’t bothering ME. Every time I start to fall asleep, we hit another bump, and I’m wide awake again.”

“Is that a problem?”

“Of course that’s a problem! I’m tired after the last room, and it felt good to close my eyes and let my mind drift. I can’t do that if we keep running into uncomfortable bumps. Will You do something?”

She watched, but nothing changed. The bumps were still there, and Jesus didn’t seem to do anything as they collided with yet another one. She turned back to Him. “If You’re not going to do anything, I will. I’ll go move those bumps myself.”

“You can if you really want to, but then you won’t be riding with Me.”

Amalia looked down at the bumpy track, then back at Jesus. She didn’t want to leave Him, but she also didn’t want to deal with a bumpy ride. “Why can’t You get rid of them?”

“I could if I wanted to, but it’s not necessary.”

“But…”

“Amalia, you have a choice. You could walk on your own, handling the bumps yourself, or stay with Me. The bumps are part of staying with Me.”

“But, riding with You should be easy and smooth. Why do we have to deal with these bothersome bumps?”

“Why do you think riding with Me is supposed to be smooth? I never told you that.”

“But, You’re God. You can easily make the way smooth. And You..  You…” Amalia thought hard. “You promised to always take care of me. Isn’t making my way smooth part of taking care of me? Besides, You love me. Don’t You want me to be happy?”

“Full of joy, yes. But happiness? That’s so conditional on circumstances. So no, some things are more important than your happiness.”

“What in the world are You talking about?”

“Exactly. You are in the world, and bumps – or problems – are part of that world. They are going to happen. I could remove them, but instead, I use them for your good. And sometimes I even put them there to slow you down, or to get your attention. What were you doing before we started hitting the bumps?”

“Um… I think I was falling asleep.”

“Were you thinking of Me? Talking to Me? Listening for My voice?”

“No, not really.”

“And what did you do as soon as you couldn’t ignore the bumps anymore?”

“I sat up, and asked You about them.”

“Right. You started interacting with Me again. So the bumps served to get your attention back on Me. Don’t get frustrated. Know that they are there for a reason.”

Amalia thought about that for a while. Then another thought came to her. “What if someone else put a bump there to hurt me?”

“It doesn’t matter. Whether I put the bumps there or someone else, I use them all for your good. You may not always understand their purposes, but you can trust Me and My love for you. I only want good for you even if it doesn’t always look that way to you. As you learn to accept the bumps, you will grow in patience and endurance. And you will learn to be full of joy no matter the circumstances. And that’s more precious to Me at this time than your comfort. So… you have a choice: you can handle them on your own, or trust Me to know what’s best for you.”

Put that way, Amalia resigned herself to a bumpy road. If Jesus wasn’t concerned the constant irritation of the bumps, she would try to accept it, too. This part of the ride wasn’t going to last forever. She wasn’t so sure of the joy part, but she could grit her teeth and be patient until they got to the next door.

They continue through that room, hitting bump after bump. Some Amalia could see coming, others took her by surprise. Eventually she began to learn to look to her Friend, trusting His wisdom each time they hit one, and, even more so, to enjoy the times between the bumps. She still didn’t like the bumps, but she didn’t let them destroy her enjoyment of the beauty of this room nor steal her joy of riding with Jesus.

And about the time she realized how much she had accepted the ride as it was and not as she wanted, they arrived at the next door.

She was at first blinded by the light that exploded around her as the door opened, and then realized it came from the sun. The real sun. And a fresh breeze caressing her skin. A real breeze, complete with the scents of heavy machinery, popcorn, and grilled burgers. They were outside!

When the car came to a stop, Jesus stood up, pulling Amalia up with Him. “So, what did you think?” He asked her as they climbed out.

“It was nothing like I thought it was going to be, but it was also way better than I thought it could be. You’re just full of surprises, aren’t You?”

“Always.” He smiled. “Ready for another ride?”

 

 

 

Scriptures

James 1:2-4  Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for hose who are called according to his purpose.

Philippians 4:11-13  Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. I how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and very circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Psalm 16:11 You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Amusement Park, Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 3

Amusement Park, Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 3

Amalia didn’t know how long she stayed huddled on that mountain side waiting to die, but when death didn’t meet her, her thoughts began to resurface. Questions bubbled up one after another. Where was she? What should she do next? Had she taken a wrong step somewhere? Where was Jesus? Why wasn’t He helping her? Should she continue going up, go down, or stay put? Why did bad things always have to happen to her?

Enough! If she was going to get out of this, she needed to stop whining and start remembering. What was the last thing Jesus told her to do?  Something like, “Remember what I told you.” And that it “was enough”. Hmmm… what had He told her that He wanted her to remember? Slowly it came back to her. He would be with her every step of the way. He would provide, protect, and guide her. He wanted to celebrate being at the top of the mountain with her. Since what He had said didn’t match to what she was now seeing and feeling, she knew she had to choose which she would believe. And it was not going to be easy.

She thought about what she knew about Jesus. She remembered all the times He had proven to be faithful. He had never lied to her, not even once. And He always kept His promises to her. She had learned to trust Him in a variety of circumstances. So what made this one any different? She made up her mind. If He said He was going to be with her every step of the way, then He was here with her now even if she couldn’t see Him. If He said He would provide, protect, and guide her, then she wasn’t lost or in danger no matter how she felt. And if He said He was going to celebrate with her at the top, then she wasn’t going to die. Strengthened by faith, she stood up and took a step. She had no idea if it was the correct step, but she trusted that if it wasn’t, Jesus would keep His promise to let her know. She took another step, then another. Still not hearing anything, she continued trudging up the slippery, snow covered slope, bending into the wind while reaching out to grab anything that she could use to pull herself forward. Her sandals were no match for the snow and she slipped often. But her determination kept her going inch by inch, for so long that she forgot all her objections and complaints, and accepted this journey as her plight in life. If she was going to trudge up this mountain in these conditions forever, so be it. Her health, her safety, her very life was in Jesus’ hands. She was His to do with as He pleased. Acknowledging this gave her a sense of peace she wasn’t expecting, and she found herself humming songs she knew He loved.

Suddenly a brilliant beam of warm sunlight broke through the swirling mist, the wind died down, and Amalia could see clearly. As she straightened up, she stared around her. She had never seen anything so breathtaking, nor felt anything so sacred! The bold, majestic face of the mountains that surrounded her, topped by glittering ice and snow, filled her with such a sense of divine power and glory that she fell to her knees. It was like being in God’s presence in a way she had never experienced before, and she felt so small and insignificant before His magnificence. And yet, she could sense His love for her  0501201030a (2)radiating out from the heavens into the deepest parts of her heart.  She wrapped herself in that sensation, eyes closed and spirit worshipping, for what felt like eons. She didn’t want to stop, but eventually her body gave out and she fell back onto the snowy ground. Weird how the snow didn’t freeze her as she lay there. It was actually soft, not warm, but not cold either. She eventually sat up and looked out over the valley below her. The patterns of browns, greens, and blues of the trees, fields, and rivers mesmerized her. She also knew there were people down there, lots of people going about their business, but they were too far way to be seen. She felt out of touch with that life. There was no sense of time here, no sense of needing to be busy doing things or planning for the future. Being up here was like being in a different world.

“Amalia!! I knew you would make it!”

Amalia turned to see Jesus dancing His way towards her. The look on His face was one of delight, pride, and approval. Just seeing it made everything Amalia had gone through worth it.

“Jesus! You’re here!”

“Of course! I told You I would always be with you. Even up here!” He laughed as He took her hands and danced around the clearing with her.

After a while, breathless from the exuberant dance, she asked, “Where are we?”

“On the mountaintop. A place few people make it to. A place where you get to see God in a way you don’t when down in the valley.”

“Do I get to stay here, so I never have to make that climb again?”

“Sorry, no. No one gets to stay on a mountaintop. Your spirit delights in it, but your body wouldn’t be able to handle it for long. One day, when you shed your body, you’ll get to stay in an even better place forever. But for now, enjoy being here at this time. Soon we will have to start the climb back down to get to the car.”

The car? She had forgotten all about the car and the haunted house ride. They seemed so mundane, so tame now, compared to what she had just experienced. How could she go back to that life and be happy?

“Cheer up, Amalia. I’ll still be with you down there. My purpose for you is not complete yet. There are things you still need to do and learn. And, besides, there will be other mountains to climb.”

Amalia knew nothing would ever compare to this day, but accepted what Jesus told her. She was needed down there. She had more to learn. And Jesus would be with her. She could wait for the promised better place, because she knew without doubt that Jesus always kept His promises.

“Okay, Jesus. Before we head back down, can we dance together one more time?”

 

All the way down the mountain, Amalia basked in her memories of her mountaintop experience. In spite of the same obstacles and dangers, she found the way down much easier than the climb up. Maybe it had something to do with going with gravity instead of against it. Or maybe it had something to do with the good things she was thinking about instead of the unpleasant things she had focused on when climbing up. In either case, it seemed like in almost no time they were down at the bottom and heading to the car. As they walked, she tried to discuss her experience with Jesus, but was dismayed to find that her memories were already fading. Sighing, she grew quiet in order to hang on to them the best she could.

“We’re here. Ready to go on?” Jesus’ voice interrupted her internal reminiscing.

Reluctantly she looked back at the mountain before climbing into the car. She had thought the room with all the toys had been her favorite, and that this room was a horrible joke. But now she realized this room had become her favorite by far, and couldn’t imagine how any future rooms would even be able to hold her interest.

She would soon find out.

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 2

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 2

The climb was just hard as she has imagined it. The dangers were every bit as real, and the top of the mountain never seemed any closer. It felt like she was going to be climbing forever. Jesus was true to His word. He directed her along paths away from cliffs, showed her good plants to eat, gave her clean water from surprising sources when she was thirsty, chased away all the dangerous animals, and provided safe places to rest when she got too tired to move on. Sometimes He would disappear – preparing the way, He said – but was always within earshot. All she had to do was call, and He was back by her side.

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And yet, in between the hard places, there were times she was delightfully surprised at what she found. Refreshing streams bubbling over colorful pebbles and emptying into golden emerald ponds.  Birds singing to each other from the branches of the trees. A newborn fawn laying in the shadow of bushes loaded with berries. An unexpected clearing covered with a patch of soft grass. The powerful sound of the wind in the tall trees that surrounded her. The majestic view of the valley below her surrounded by even higher mountains. Abandoned cabins, still containing signs of the life it once held.

Her favorites, though, were the places where the water fell from great heights, bouncing over boulders of varying sizes, and splashing down into refreshing pools at the bottom. Her eyes traveled the path of the water droplets, letting the roar and splashing of the water fill her until she thought of nothing else. She tried to imagine what it would be like to be able to play with the waterfall like the birds did as they flew in and out of the mist created by the splashing water. Or what kinds of secret caves the falling water hid. The smaller waterfalls were just as intriguing. Sometimes the water looked like it was rushing to its destination, while the water in other waterfalls seemed to be enjoying a much slower pace. She couldn’t resist reaching out to touch the water, and marveled at the sensation of the icy coldness running over her hand. No matter how big or little the waterfall was, she wanted to spend hours at each. Sometimes Jesus let her, but other times He called her away to continue their walk.

Slowly, Amalia’s attitude began to change. Her trust in Jesus grew as He did what He said He would do, and she no longer feared what she might face. No matter how hard it got, knowing He was there made it all doable. She found her focus shifting from anticipating the unknown to finding joy in the moment. She didn’t have to worry about how to cross this mountain. She didn’t have to worry about how to deal with any problems or obstacles that might arise. That was Jesus’ job. All she had to do was follow His directions. With Him taking care of the big scary details, she was free to enjoy the small fun ones.

But then they entered a fog that grew thicker with each step. The swirling mist swallowed up everything around them until she could barely see the ground in front of her. She even lost sight of Jesus from time to time.

“Jesus? What is this?”

“Not to worry. This mountain is so tall that it goes up into the clouds. The fog around us, the clouds, shows us that we are nearing the top.”

“But I can’t see anything. How can I stay on the path when I can’t even see it?”

“It’s no different than before. I’m still with you. I’m still guiding, protecting, and providing for you.”

“I bet You can see through this… this… swirling mess. That’s why You can say it’s no different. But it IS different for me. I can’t see!”

“You don’t have to. You have Me.”

“But, how will I be able to follow You if I can’t see You?” Amalia stopped walking. “How do I know that the next step I take won’t lead me off a cliff?”

Jesus sighed. “Amalia, I thought you trusted Me.”

“I do, but this is different.”

“Why? Have I changed?”

“No.”

“Other than the fog, has the mountain changed?”

“No. I don’t think so, but then, how would I know if I can’t see it?”

“What if I told you that it hadn’t?”

“I guess I would believe You.”

“So, if I haven’t changed, and the mountain hasn’t changed, what changed?”

Amalia thought about that for a few minutes. And then she got it.

“My vision. What I can see changed.”

“Exactly. You trusted Me before, trust Me now. Instead of focusing on what you see, focus on what you hear.”

Amalia wasn’t happy about this turn of events. It wasn’t fair to expect her to continue walking a hard path without being able to enjoy the beauty along the way. And, being a visual learner, she had always done better using her sight than her hearing. Suddenly she wanted nothing else than to be on the other side of the mountain and in the car that was supposed to be waiting for them. “Okay, fine. Let’s go. The faster we do this, the faster we can get to the other side.”

If Jesus minded her tone, He didn’t show it. “That’s the spirit!” He said. “We’re not far from the top.”

At first Jesus stayed close by, telling her where to walk, encouraging each step she took, and letting her know if she wandered to the left or to the right of the path. It wasn’t as bad as walking completely blind because Amalia could still see the ground, but only enough of it to take one or two hesitant steps at a time. She missed using her sight, but slowly began to get better at using her ears. Through the fog she could hear the calls of the birds and imagine them flitting from branch to another. She could hear the roar of the waterfalls and imagine the crashing water. She could hear the mighty wind above her and imagine the leaves dancing in the trees . As she focused on the sounds around her, she realized that she could hear Jesus better also.

Slowly, as she grew comfortable following Jesus’ words instead of His body, she actually began to enjoy the walk, taking each step more confidently. She found a strange beauty in the fog that she had never noticed before. The fog’s muting of the birds, waterfalls, and wind was actually peaceful. Almost like being in the dark room with Jesus. She didn’t even mind when the dirt path became covered with snow, making the path even harder to walk. She trusted that Jesus would not let her wander into dangerous ground, and would be quick to correct her each time she drifted from the path He had her on. However, the increasing strength of the wind around her caused her some concern. Jesus had told her He would direct her steps, but what was going to keep her from blowing off the mountain? And where was He, by the way? It dawned on her that she hadn’t heard His voice for a while now. She stopped walking and listened harder. No Voice. Had she become overconfident and taken a wrong turn somewhere? Was she lost now?

“Jesus! Where are You?”

So soft, like a whisper just barely heard over the wind, came the words, “Remember what I told you.”

“That’s it? That’s all I get when I need You the most?”

“It’s enough.”

She wanted to scream in frustration. She had done everything He had asked her. She had trusted everything He said. And this is where it got her? Lost in the blinding fog and blown around by the gusty wind? She shivered as she realized she was also freezing. She stooped down, hugging her knees, in an effort to escape the harsh conditions around her. Feeling abandoned and alone and afraid, she faced her worse fear: she was going to die.