Two Sides

A book has a beginning and an end. Without both, it would be incomplete.

A coin has a front and a back. Without both, it would be valueless.

A house has an inside and an outside. Without both, it couldn’t exist.

A staircase has a top and a bottom. Without both, it would be useless.

A toothbrush is a hard and a soft part. Without both, it wouldn’t be a toothbrush.

Many things have two sides, both equally important.

So does our God Most High.

He is loving, kind, long-suffering, patient, faithful, merciful, and forgiving.

He is also just, jealous, holy, righteous, wrathful, and a consuming fire.

He is God.

He is not a god.

He is the LORD God Most High.

We did not create God.

His character is not open for debate.

Liking or not liking His traits does not negate them.

Understanding or not understanding Him does not change Him.

He is who He is.

He is God.

Focusing on only one side leaves you shortsighted.

Those who focus on the ‘God is love’ side tend to become presumptuous and  complacent, accepting everything, even sin.

Those who focus on the wrathful God tend to become fearful and legalistic, rejecting anything outside their view.

To know God you have to know both sides.

We either accept Him as He is, or we need to find a god more to our liking. Even if that god is us.

The truth is…

God Most High is both loving and jealous.

God Most High is both merciful and wrathful.

God Most High is both forgiving and holy.

God Most High is both faithful and vengeful.

The side you see depends on where you stand.


Exodus 3:14  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Psalm 83:18  That they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 46:9  Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

Exodus 34:6-7  The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

2 Chronicles 34:21  “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LOR, to do according to all that is written in this book.”

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

1 Peter 1:15-16  But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all you conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Psalm 11:7 For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

Psalm 86:5 For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

1 Cor 15:3  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.

1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us for all unrighteousness.

What If?

0808202219

 

What if all those warnings over the last 40+ years were true –

warnings of a coming darkness?

warnings of God’s wrath?

warnings of judgment because we (Christians) have turned from God?

 

What if you knew those days were here?

How would you live differently? Or would you?

How would it change your prayer life? Or would it?

 

Individually and as a Church,

would we use God’s Word to look within ourselves, to see where we’ve compromised with the world around us?

Because we have compromised.

Would we ask God to reveal our sin; where we’ve strayed?

Because we have strayed.

Would we repent, and pray for God’s mercy?

Because that’s what He wants most of all.

Or would we point our fingers at each other? Or at those outside the Church for bringing this upon us?

 

Each time the Israelites strayed from God’s commands, incorporating pagan lifestyles and beliefs into their own, God sent warnings through His prophets. God gave the people plenty of time to return to Him. Sometimes it was years, sometimes decades, sometimes even centuries. But each time the warnings were ignored. Since the wrath didn’t appear the next day, or the next month, the Israelites believed it wouldn’t happen at all. Instead of turning to God, they turned on the prophets with ridicule, imprisonment, even murder. Until the wrath fell on them.

 

What if we as a Church are no different? What if we have adopted the mind sets and life styles of the world around us? What if we no longer hold God first in our hearts, but  seek after the gods of this world? What if we have been warned repeatedly by courageous modern day prophets, but treated them the same way the Israelite treated the prophets of old? Have we dismissed those who have called out for us to repent? Have we belittled and criticized warning “prophecies”, believing, maybe, that God doesn’t do that anymore? Or that the prophets “got it wrong”? After all, we go to church. We give our money. We try to live good lives. We’re fine, right?

Are we?

 

God told the Israelites to…

worship only Him, and with all their heart,

to follow all His commands which involved their relationship with Him, and with each other,

and to keep His ways, not the ways of the people around them.

 

Didn’t Jesus tell us the same thing?

worship God with all our heart,

love each other, treat each other fairly and justly

obey the Holy Spirit inside us,

and not conform to the world around us

 

God poured out His wrath on the Israelites for straying – wrath that included…

Confusion, frustration

Diseases, afflictions, pestilences, and illnesses

Defeat by their enemies

Oppression and robbery instead of prosperity

Sojourners among them would rise higher and higher while they were brought lower and lower

A nation from far away come against them

Crops consumed by insects

So hungry they end up eating their own children

Be in darkness as if blind

Be left few in number

 

Scary, isn’t it?

What if He did the same with us? What if He’s already doing it? The New Testament warns of a coming wrath. It’s not a matter of IF it will happen, but WHEN it will happen.

 

Yet, God also promised blessings instead of curses if the Israelites turned back to Him…

Set them high among the nations

Defeat their enemies

Establish them as His holy people, causing all other nations to fear them

Prosper them in every way

Send rain in its season

Open to them His good treasury in heaven

They would lend to other nations, and not borrow

 

What if we listened to the prophets this time?

What if we turned back to God with all our hearts?

What if the time was now?

 

 

 


Scriptures:

“For the LORD GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

“Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.” (2 Chron 24:19)

 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Rom 1:18-19)

“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom 2:4-6)

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has not inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceived you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”” (Eph 5:1-14)

 “ Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” (Col 3:5-6)

“Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” (Jude 1:17-19)

list of Blessings for Obedience, and Curses for Disobedience (see Deut 28)

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you…  and you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of you cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers… (Deut 30:1-3, 8-9)

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil… therefore choose life that you and your offspring may live…” (Deut 30: 11-15, 19)

“if my people who are called by by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron 7:14)

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your father served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in the land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

 

Peek-A-Boo

0805201053 (2)

Just when you think there’s no end to the swirling dark clouds in your life,

God gives you a peek…

Past your view and into His.

For just a few moments, you can see the brightness of His glorious presence,

And know all is well.

And if you’re really observant,

You might even see His heart.

 


 

Psalm 115:3  Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Psalm 94:19  When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

 

Amusement Park: Waiting on Jesus

Amusement Park: Waiting on Jesus

“There it is!” Amalia pointed to the large wooden boat that was swinging from one side to the other in large arcs. “I’ve always wanted to try this ride!’

“It looks fun,” Jesus said. “But there’s something I have to do first. Sit here on this bench and wait for Me.” He pointed to a small bench just outside the entrance gate.

“Sure,” Amalia agreed. She sat backwards on the bench, facing the boat. It was huge! She wondered what it would feel like to ride it. To feel the thrill of the rise and the adrenaline rush of the fall, both frontwards and backwards. Would she scream like so many others? Or would she laugh? It couldn’t be as bad as a roller coaster, so she thought she’d probably laugh. After all, it was a big solid boat, moving in a predictable manner, and not nearly as high as the roller coaster.

The best thing about it – there was no line! It seemed everyone who wanted to ride it was on already on it-  because it was packed! There was probably less than a handful of empty seats. Amalia sighed in pleasure.  She had never gotten to be first on a ride. Besides, she hated feeling crowded, so the anticipation of riding this boat without having to sit shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of strangers added to her excitement. This was going to be great!

As she watched the boat move, she noticed it wasn’t rising quite as high as it had a few moments before. The ride must be ending soon. And still no one in line. Amalia looked around for Jesus. Where was He? There was still a little while before the boat ride would fully end so Amalia decided not to worry about it. Jesus would be there before it was time to board.

Before she could turn back towards the boat, a group of boys caught her attention. They were laughing and pushing each other. One boy pointed to the boat, and within minutes they heading in her direction. Oh no! Amalia glanced at the gate. Should she get up to make sure she remained first in line? Jesus had said to wait on the bench, but the gate was almost within touching distance. Surely waiting there would be just as good. But what if He meant what He said? She had agreed to wait on the bench. Would leaving it be disobedience? Before she could make up her mind, it was too late. The rowdy boys were at the gate. The best she could be was fourth now. Disappointed, she consoled herself with the reminder that there were so many seats on that boat, it would still feel empty even with the group of boys. Being fourth wouldn’t change that.

A married couple with three children walked up.

“Excuse me,” said the woman. “Are you in line?”

Amalia shook her head. “No, not yet. I’m waiting on someone.”

“Okay, just making sure.” The woman motioned to her kids. “Go ahead, she’s not in line.”

Right behind them came another couple, and then a group of girls. Amalia’s stomach began to tighten. Where were all these people coming from? This was supposed to be her ride, not theirs. She was supposed to be first. She was supposed to ride an almost empty boat. Jesus knew she didn’t like crowds. Why was he delaying his return? Maybe she should go ahead and get in line before it gets any longer. No, Jesus said to wait. On the bench. And she was going to do that. Maybe no one else would come. There were still a lot more seats than people. It will be okay.

The boat was barely rocking now. Soon it would stop and Amalia would… would what? What would she do if Jesus still hadn’t returned? Get on without Him? Miss the ride? No, she trusted Him. He said it would be a fun ride, and He told her to wait. So she would wait.

The waiting became even harder as other people joined the line, now about twenty yards long. Twenty yards of people who got ahead of her. Amalia felt envious. They didn’t have to wait. They could get in line whenever they wanted to. And here she was just sitting on a bench. She felt left out, and a little silly. She wanted to ride. Jesus said she could ride. Did He really say to stay on the bench? Or did He just say to wait, and the bench was her idea? Why couldn’t she wait for Him in line? It wasn’t like she would board without Him or anything. Besides, He said He’d be back. Did it really matter if she was on the bench or in line when He returned?

Amalia’s attention was drawn to the behavior of those waiting. Many were minding their 0805201858 (2)own business, but there were some that weren’t. The rowdy group of boys next to her was calling out rude comments to the group of girls. Amalia could see the girls blush as they tried to ignore them. Amalia felt bad for the girls, and wondered why no one was saying anything to make the boys stop. Further down the line a young girl was pulling on her parents, begging not to have to ride the big boat, but the parents seemed angry and were ridiculing her fear. That didn’t seem right to Amalia either. It actually seemed cruel. She was glad when one man called out to the parents. But instead of interceding for the child, the man began calling the parents names which soon escalated into a loud argument. People around them began to take sides, and Amalia grew tense as a fight seemed likely to break out at any moment. A quick movement caught her attention and she looked away from the imminent fight just in time to see a pickpocket making his way through the crowd. How does he get away with that? Can’t people feel someone else’s hand in their pockets? What if she had been a victim earlier to a pickpocket and she had not noticed? Quickly she felt her back pocket, and was relieved to feel the bulge of her wallet. Other sounds of discord quickly claimed her attention. Some people began grumbling and complaining about having to wait so long in smelly crowd on such a hot day. Others were making snide comments about what other people were wearing, or the way they looked.

Maybe it would be better to wait on the bench. She didn’t want to be part of that crowd. She turned back to the boat and watched as it slowly settled until it came to a complete stop at the bottom. People piled out, some talking enthusiastically about their experience; others white faced – or green faced – hurrying to get away. When the boat was empty, the people in line began to board it. Amalia looked around. Where was Jesus? It was time to get on, and she didn’t want to miss it. But He was nowhere in sight.

She looked at the line, trying to estimate the number of people. Would they fill up that boat before Jesus returned? And even more people were joining them by the minute. Torn between the desire to join the line in order to ensure a ride and the command to wait on the bench, Amalia wanted to cry in frustration. Where was Jesus? Why was He not back already? Had she heard Him wrong? He said the ride would be fun – but what if He meant fun for her, and not for them? Maybe she was supposed to get on it by herself. It was even harder watching all those people get what she wanted. They didn’t even deserve it. Their behavior should have gotten them kicked out of line. But there they were, gleefully filling up the seats that Amalia coveted.

Amalia clenched her eyes, trying to squeeze back her tears. It just wasn’t fair. Her thoughts drifted to her Friend. He had had to face some unfairness Himself. And much worse than she was facing. Feeling remorse, Amalia silently asked God for forgiveness. If He wanted her to wait, she would wait. What He wanted was more important than what she wanted. She would trust His timing. And if she missed this ride, then so be it. She would rather have Him than a ride. Even a ride as great as this one ride. She quit fretting about all the people filling up her boat, especially the mean ones, and the ones she had seen cut in line. Her priorities once again in their right place, peace filled her heart. She opened her eyes and began praying for the people as they rushed past her.

A few minutes later Jesus walked up. “Are you ready?” He asked her.

“Yes, but I don’t think there’ll be any room left.”

“Sure there is. Watch.” He pointed to a couple of security guards walking towards them. A shout from the boat caught their attention, and they pushed their way through the line to investigate. Soon more shouting erupted, and more security guards came running. Before Amalia knew what was happening, the guards had ordered everyone off the boat.

“Let’s go,” Jesus said warmly. He took Amalia’s hand and led her past the people lining up along the fence towards the boat. She could hear snippets of emotional responses to the guards’ questions as people justified their behaviors and pointed their fingers at each other. Jesus gently pushed Amalia up the ramp and into the boat. She looked around in amazement. It was empty! Other people began to board after her, the ones let go by the guards, but she had been first!

“Where do you want to sit” Jesus asked with a smile.

 


Scriptures

Ps 37:7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

Ps 37: 34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

Lamentations 3:24-26  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul. “Therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Hebrews 6:15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.

Micah 7:7  But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Deut 10:12 … what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 

Matt 22:37-39  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

 

You Know You Can Take Off Your Coat, Right?

0804202201 (2)
You know you can take off your coat, right?

 

Carlynne frowned in confusion. It didn’t make sense. Why would they want to wear coats on this warm, beautiful day? Maybe she could ask them. She walked towards them until she could hear their conversation. They were admiring each other’s coats while at the same time describing what they loved best about their own. Carlynne looked down at her own body. She wasn’t wearing a coat. She used to have a coat, but had gotten rid of it a long time ago when she discovered she didn’t need it anymore. The sunshine itself was all she needed to stay warm.  Yet here was a group of people who not only wore coats, but delighted in wearing them.

“Hi,” she called out to them. “I noticed you are all wearing coats.”

“Aren’t they beautiful?” a short woman answered.

“Yes, they do look good, but…”

“I just love how they make me feel,” a taller woman said.

“I can see that. But…”

“I feel so special when I’m wearing mine,” an older lady interrupted.

“I can see that. But don’t you feel a bit… bound… in them?”

“Bound?” a large man asked. “What do you mean?”

“Well, your coats are kind of thick. I would think that would make it harder for you to move as freely as you could if you weren’t wearing them.”

“I can move just fine,” answered the man.

“Well,” a young woman said slowly as she stretched her arms out in front of her. “Now that you mention it, it does kind of restrict my arms.”

Several other people nodded as they stretched their arms, but stopped when they noticed some of the others in the group were shaking their heads at them. “It’s worth the sacrifice,” they were told.

Carlynne said, “You do know you can take off your coat, right?”

“Take it off?” the tall woman gulped, clutching her coat tightly to herself. “I wouldn’t dream of taking mine off.”

There were a variety of assenting sounds, and Carlynne noticed they were all now holding tightly on to their coats.

But aren’t you hot in them? The sun is…”

“It kept me warm when I needed it,” interrupted another man. “If I took it off, I would be cold and vulnerable.”

“But the sun…”

“My coat is what keeps me warm,” interrupted the older lady.

“But I’m not wearing…”

“My coat is the most important thing in the world to me,” interrupted the shorter woman.

Tired of being interrupted, Carlynne gave up. Walking away from them, rejoicing in the freedom she had being coatless – feeling the warmth of the glorious sun directly on her skin – she wondered if any of them had noticed that she wasn’t wearing one. Maybe one day, they would. Then maybe they would be open to hearing why. And maybe, when they understood the sun better, they would find that that they no longer needed their coats either.

 


 

Religion: noun. A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices (Merriam-Webster)

Carlynne – “she who has freedom”

Psalm 84: 11  For the LORD God is a sun and a shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Philippinas 3:1-11  Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.  If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Col 2:6-23  Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority, in him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us, with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – “Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch.” (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

You’re Being Watched

0719200628 (2)

 

Do you feel like you’re being watched sometimes?

That’s because you are.

There are people who watch to see how you handle things.

There are animals who watch to see if you drop a bit of food.

There is God, who is always watching.

And there are other things, not so pleasant, also watching you, looking for ways to mess up your day.

They look for ways to destroy you.

They invite you to come outside and play with them; to come outside of God’s light, and enter their dark games.

You need to be aware, watchful, so you can resist their temptations, and not fall for their deceptions.

But you don’t need to worry. Let them watch. Our God is greater than ALL things.

And that includes scary looking things that can’t actually harm you.

Like this mayfly.

 

 

 

1 Peter 5:8  Be sober minded, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

James 4:7  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Psalm 37:32  The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.

Proverbs 15:3  The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.

1 Cor 16:13-14  Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

He’s Not Like That

He’s Not Like That  

Short story based on a dream  2-12-20

0724202012 (2)

“I felt bad that my faith was not stronger, but I didn’t condemn myself over it,” I assured the older lady sitting next to me. “I know God is a forgiving God, and He understands my struggles.”

“That’s good. You didn’t know God then like you know Him now.” Vanda smiled at me.

“I’ve also discovered that one reason it was so hard for me to trust God when I first started walking with Him was because I was looking at Him like I looked at my earthly father. I think it might be the same with others. How we see God the Father is affected by how we see our earthly fathers.”

“That’s great insight. You need to share your story at our next meeting. People will be encouraged by that.”

I considered it, and then agreed. God had done so many things for me; it was time for me to do something for Him.

For the next few days I pictured myself telling a room full of people how I had come to know God.  I was excited that my story would touch so many people. Maybe it would have great impact in their lives, freeing them to see God as He really is, and enabling them to receive the steadfast love He has for them.

Only it didn’t turn out that way. When the meeting started, there were only four of us. An older man and his wife, Vanda, and me. I was disappointed, but I had agreed, and so I began.

“I was raised in a devout Catholic family. That becomes important later on. We moved frequently through my early childhood. Life changed about the time I entered fifth grade, when we moved away from our large extended family. A few years later my dad lost his job, and got moody. He became increasingly critical and judgmental towards us and towards church. We went to church each week, but it was more of a ritual than anything else. To me it was just bunch of rules that was supposed to bring us close to God, to make us pleasing to Him. There was no life in that but I gave it my best shot during my early teen years, becoming very religious with lots of rosaries and masses. I felt no closer to God and church was too cold for me, so as soon as I could, I quit going.

Life was painful. Broken relationships, confusion, and a extremely poor self-concept resulted in a deep depression that grew deeper throughout my teen years. After high school graduation, when things got as bad as they could get, I gave up. I knew I could not help myself, so I asked God for help before crying myself to sleep at night. But during the days, I ran from anything to do with Him. It was like a game of tag, and He wasn’t going to let me get away. He set me up to have an encounter with Him during a movie I pretty much felt forced to watch. He changed my life, and I began to walk with Him.

He did so many small things – constantly doing things – to show me He loved me. I look back and can’t believe how much trouble I had trusting Him. I know now that it was because I was viewing Him though the lens of the various glasses I was wearing.

One was my father-lens. My dad’s inconsistent attitude towards me – acceptance one day, rejection the next – led me to believe God’s attitude would also be inconsistent. Sure, He loved me on those days when He did something for me. But what about the other days?  And what about when I disappointed Him?

I had a church-lens. The church’s focus on rules and rituals influenced how I viewed God. Things had to be done in the correct way or God wouldn’t be pleased.

And then I had the me-lens. I saw God the way I saw myself. When I was feeling happy about myself. God was happy with me, too. I was acceptable to Him. But I was not acceptable to Him on my bad days any more than I accepted myself on those days.

That was years ago. Many years of struggling to get past those lenses to see God as He really was.  And now…” I paused. I was going to say I no longer struggled. But was that true? I had to be honest. Honest with myself; and honest with these people, as few as they were.

“And now it’s the same. Only different. Deeper. I no longer question whether God loves me. But is He taking care of me when things look bad, and I can’t see Him working?  I no longer believe we have to follow a bunch of rules and rituals in order to get close to God. But am I saying the right words when fighting the enemy? I no longer believe God sees me as I see myself. But I find myself running away from Him when I’m feeling bad instead of running to Him, thinking I’m not acceptable when feeling that way. I guess I haven’t really gotten past my lenses. I just put God’s lens over mine.”  I sat down, disappointed in myself.

No one spoke for a few minutes.

“Well, don’t feel bad. We are all wearing our own lenses under God’s lens.” Vanda said. “It’s okay. God understands.”

“I know,” I responded glumly. “I just don’t like that they’re there.”

“Then get rid of them.”

Get rid of them? Easier said than done.  “How do I do that? I’ve tried for years, and yet they are still there.”

“I’ve heard if you don’t use them, they will slowly shrink away until they are gone.”

I brightened. “That’s it! I’ll just choose not to use them!”

Over the next week I had plenty of opportunities to choose. And I devised a process to help me intentionally look through God’s lens instead of mine. I couldn’t wait to get back to the group to share it.

Finally it was time.

“Remember last week when we talked about choosing which lens to look through? I figured out how to make that work for me. I hope it works for you, too.

The first thing I did was identify which lens I was looking through whenever I thought about God. Often when a doubt sneaks into my mind, it comes as a vague, uncertain feeling. It’s like trying to look through two lenses at the same time. Things get blurry. So putting that feeling into words helped clarify the thought. And that helped identify the lens. If it was a dad-lens, religious- lens, or a me-lens, I made the conscious choice replace it with a God-lens. I reminded myself He was not like that, and replaced the faulty thought with truth from the Bible.

Here are some thoughts I’ve had this week, and how I handled them.

 

“God won’t help me if the problem is my fault.”

He’s not like that.

Hebrews 4:16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

God’s love is conditional on what I do or don’t do. If I skip my Bible reading, He will withhold His love”.

He’s not like that

2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.

 

“God criticizes me for my failures.”

He’s not like that

Romans 8:1  There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

“God makes promises, but He doesn’t always keep them.”

He’s not that

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

 

“God doesn’t understand me.”

He’s not like that

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and know me!”

 

“God will get angry at me when I deliberately misbehave”.

He’s not like that

Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

 

“God is too busy with His own plans to get involved in the smaller things in my life.”

He’s not like that

Philippians 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

 

“God is far away, watching from a distance to see how I handle things in my day to day life.”

He’s not like that

James 4:8a Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

 

“God is punitive, quick to administer punishment for my mistakes.”

He’s not like that

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

 

“God is not concerned about my mental health.”

He’s not like that

3 John 1:2  Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

 

“God does not care about what I care about.”

He’s not like that

1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you

 

“God expects too much from us. We can’t do it all.”

He’s not like that

2 Corinthians 9:8  God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

 

“God may or may not hear me when I call to Him.”

He’s not like that

Psalm 34:17  When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

 

“God can get impatient and cranky.”

He’s not like that

1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it’s not irritable or resentful.

 

“As you can see,” I told the group. “The enemy is busy planting seeds every day. But we don’t have to let them grow. God’s Word is a powerful way to combat those seeds before they can grow into a lens. The bottom line is this: God loves you better than you know. He completely accepts you as you are, delights in you, and wants only good for you. Even when you stray or give in to sin, He is quick to forgive when you ask because of His great love for You. You can’t do anything to lessen that love, or anything to increase it. Once you grasp that, doubts will no longer be a problem.”

I sat back down, leaving them to reflect on what I had just shared. And then from deep inside, I heard the Lord whisper, “Are you listening?”

Dear Little Water Splasher (from Someone Who Loves You series)

0712201157k (2)

Dear Little Water Splasher,

I knew you were out of your comfort zone. The river is much larger than the small inflatable pools you’re used to. And the water is continually moving; the constant flow of the waves might have been a bit unsettling. But the worst seems to have been the inability to see through the water. Did you think dangerous things were hiding in there?  Did you think  the muddy bottom would suck you deep into it, never letting you go? Or did you think there was no bottom at all? You had two choices, and I’m delighted you chose trust over fear. As long as you were being held, you were able to ignore the unknown that scared you and go willingly into something new. By trusting the strong arms that held you securely, you had great fun interacting with the water. Do you know something? Life is like that river. It’s big, constantly moving, and contains many unknowns. You can remain in your comfort zone and stay distant from it out of fear, or allow yourself to be carried out of your comfort zone and into a new adventure, knowing you’ll be secure in the arms that carry you there. Splash all you want, my little duck. You are safe.

From,

Someone Who Loves You

 

 

Psalm 63:8  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Isaiah 41:13  For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not. I am the one who helps you.”

Psalm  89:13  You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high is your right hand.

 

Do you hear God speaking to you in these letters? If so, it’s no coincidence.  As I write to my new granddaughter, I can hear God speaking to me. And my prayer is that you can also hear Him speaking to you for He loves us even more than I love my granddaughter.

Amusement Park: The Hat, part 2

Amusement Park: The Hat, part 2

Amalia looked at the dark entrance. “Are You sure we need to do this?” she asked Jesus as He settled down next to her in the small train car. “There are still other rides we could do.”

“Sooner or later you’re going to have to go through this room. It might as well be now. Remember what I told you the last time. Hold my hand and know that nothing can hurt you when I’m in the car with you. When you get nervous or feel lost, squeeze it and I’ll squeeze back reassuring you that I’m still with you.”

“Okay,” Amalia responded nervously. None of the rooms had been like the standard spooky rooms found in other haunted houses. This one problem wouldn’t be either. But what would it be like? What hadn’t she already seen on her last ride through this building?

The ride started with a jerk, and they slowly approached the door. Amalia reached up with her free hand to make sure her hat was on securely. The reassurance she felt when she touched it calmed her nerves, and she sat back. She was ready for whatever was on the other side.

The car bumped open the door, and they went in. There were people everywhere. Most were busy with their own affairs, but a few waved at the Amalia. It was the same room as the other time. Disappointed, she turned to Jesus. “I thought You said it would be different. This is the same room we went in the last time.”

“I said there was a room we skipped. You’ll see.”

Amalia watched the people, all busy with their lives, and wondered what it would feel like to live in a room like this. Did they know their world was just a huge room painted to look like the outdoors? Maybe her own world was an illusion too. Maybe there was more to life than what she saw.

As they came to the end of the room, Amalia noticed something she hadn’t the first time. The track had a split. The main track went to the door and into the next room. That’s the way they had gone before. The smaller track curved to the left and disappeared into darkness. That must be where the unexplored room was. Her thoughts were confirmed when the car went over a little bump, and headed left. This is it. Ready or not, here we come.

At first everything was dark. Almost everything. Down the track, she could see the faint outline of a door as light escaped through the edges. That must be the room. Good. At least she would be able to see whatever was in there. As they got closer to the door, the light transitioned from an early morning glow to the brightness of midday. Before she could shield her eyes, they bumped through the door and they were surrounded by light. A harsh light. Amalia squinted through her fingers and noticed the light was not empty. Ghostly beings were around the car. Beautiful, strong, and powerful beings. Were these angels?

“Where are we?” Amalia asked Jesus.

“We’re in a room in the haunted house.”

“I know that. I mean, what is this room?”

“It’s a room that enables you to see what you can’t normally see.”

“And what am I seeing?”

“Keep looking.”

Amalia tried, but the light was too bright. However, ever so slowly her eyes adjusted, and she made out some buildings, trees, cars… Wait! This was her street! That was her house! And that was her car! Was she back home? But no, she could still see and feel the train car. And Jesus was still holding her hand. So… if she wasn’t at home, this must be a replica. Why was it here? To show her that she was surrounded by invisible angels when at home? That made sense. The Bible said that God used angels to minister to His people. Then this was a good thing, and she relaxed. As she did so, she began to hear voices. The ghostly beings – the angels – began to call to her.

“We are here to serve you. What do you want? We can give you comfort when you’re troubled. We can protect you when you stumble. We can fill you with love. We accept you just as you are. You don’t need to change anything. Just reach out to us. We are here.”

She began to reach out, but Jesus stopped her. Confused, she asked, “Why can’t I reach out to them? They don’t seem evil. They actually look good. Aren’t they angels?”

He frowned in warning. “Don’t let their appearances fool you. They are not angels. They are 100% evil. They have only evil planned for you.”

“But how could something so beautiful be evil? How could love and acceptance be bad?”

“It’s all designed to take your eyes of Me, to deceive you, and then to destroy you. I can – and do – give you all those things. But not in the way or timing they do. You have the choice, though. You can choose them, or you can choose Me. You can’t have both.”

Put that way, Amalia had no trouble choosing. “Jesus, I want You.”

Suddenly the lights flickered, and in that flickering, all the beautiful creatures became hideous. Gaping mouths, grotesque features, screeching voices. Amalia shuddered.

“Now you see the ugliness inside them,” came a soft whisper.

Grateful for His warning, and even more grateful that she had heeded it, she squeezed His hand. The harsh light returned, and they continued going through the room. It became easier to ignore the calls as she knew them for what they really were, but still, Amalia was glad to see the end of the room approaching. Except there was no door in the wall. How would they get out of this room if there was no door?

As she tried to puzzle it out, a sound distracted her. A kind of like a roar, almost like a bear or lion or strong wind, was slowly growing stronger as if something was heading towards her. She looked around, trying to locate the source, but couldn’t see anything. She didn’t know why, but she knew she didn’t want to meet the cause of the roar. Door or no door, she had to leave. Now, before it got to her. She pulled on Jesus’ hand and said, “Jesus, get me out of here.”

“I will at the right time.”

As far as she was concerned, this was the right time. But she knew Jesus well enough to know He was going to do what He was going to do. She reached to her hat with her free hand, and focused on its comforting presence.

A few minutes later, the roar subsided, and she heard a high, squeaky voice calling to her. “Come here, Amalia. Let me show you something.”

Amalia shuddered. “No, I’m staying in the car.”

“I can come to you, if you want. All you have to do is ask.”

Amalia shook her head. “No, no, I don’t want you here. Go away.”

A deeper, colder voice broke in. “I told you she wouldn’t invite you in. You’re going to have to get her to come out.”

“How do I do that?”

“Oh, there are a number of ways. Confusion, fear, enticement, intimidation, and lies to name a few.”

“I’ve tried some of that. Why didn’t it work? I used my most enticing voice,” whined the squeaky voice.

The voices continued as if they didn’t realize she could hear them.

“Because she is holding on to Jesus, you fool. First you have to get her to let go.”

Amalia had no intention of doing that. She tightened her grip on Jesus’ hand as well as on her hat just as something flew past her face. She couldn’t see it, but felt the movement of the air and heard a soft buzz as it passed. A bee? In here?  Amalia had a fear of bees, especially angry ones, ever since she had been stung by one when she was a child. If this bee was lost, it was quite possible that it was angrily trying to find it way out using its sense of smell. Amalia grew cold as she realized that the closest smell to a flower in this room was the conditioner in her hair. That meant the bee would be circling around her, getting angrier by the moment for not finding what it sought. What if it landed on her head? Could it get under her cap? She quickly took her cap off and held it tightly to her chest. She shook her head softly, then more vigorously. She heard another buzz, and then another. More than one bee? That was more than she could stand. She let go of Jesus’ hand to swat the air around her, hoping to bother them enough that they would decide to move on.

A victorious chuckle came from the darkness to her left. “See, I told you it would work. Now watch me get her to leave the car.”

Amalia closed her eyes, willing this ride to be over. She didn’t want to face that deep voiced being. But then she remembered that there was no door. Was she stuck in this room forever? With that thing? At least if they kept moving, they were going to get to the end eventually. If only they could move faster. Amalia clung to her hat with both hands, pulling from it as much reassurance from it she could. Jesus would protect her if she held on tight enough.

But then the unthinkable happened. They stopped.

She opened one eye to see why. A glowing being stood before them. He smiled when it saw her looking.

“Hi, Amalia.”

She felt herself inexplicably drawn to him.

“That’s right. Come to me. I’m not evil, like the lies about me say. I have power, and I can give you power too.”

“I don’t want power.” Amalia managed to say, yet deep inside she knew that wasn’t true. She did want power. She wanted the power to make more money. Enough to buy all those snow globes. She wanted power to make people like her. She wanted the power to make all the fighting in the world stop. She wanted the power to heal diseases. She caressed her hat as she imagined all the good she could do if she had that much power.

“See? Power can be a good thing in the hands of someone as good as you. Come on, I’ll teach you.”

Amalia was tempted. Getting out of the car for a few minutes wouldn’t be such a bad thing, would it? She was doing it for a good reason. Besides, she had her hat – the hat that had come to symbolized Jesus – so she knew He would be with her. Hadn’t He said that He would no matter where she went?

Hesitating, she asked, “how do I know you won’t hurt me?’

“Look at me. Can something this beautiful be dangerous?”

Amalia had to agree. He was beautiful. Tall, strong, and glowing with vitality. But then she remembered the other glowing creatures earlier in this room. They had been beautiful too, until Jesus had revealed their real nature. She held her hat up to her mouth in both hands as she tried to discern the truth, but the hat gave her no answers. Maybe that meant it was okay to get out.

“Come on, Amalia. What do you say? Do you want to help the world be a better place?”

Deciding, she reached with one hand to unbuckle her seat belt.

“Stop.”

Startled, she looked up. Jesus was shaking His head at her. She had been so focused on her hat and that being that she had forgotten that He was sitting next to her. “Do not listen to him. He is deceiving you.”

“But isn’t what he offers a good thing?”

“Nothing he offers comes without strings. He will offer you the world, but take your soul.”

Amalia took her hand off the seat belt to clasp her hat to her chest again. Why hadn’t the hat warned her? Why was it still giving her peace?

“Because there’s nothing to be afraid of,” the glowing being said.

“Let go of the hat, Amalia.” Jesus said.

No! He couldn’t mean that! Didn’t He know how much she loved this hat? It made her feel connected to Him. It was a good thing. Why did He want her to remove it? It would be like removing God from her life. She shook her head and clasped the hat tighter.

“Let go of the hat, Amalia.” Jesus said again. “You have made it into something it is not.”

“What do You mean?”

“You have made it into Me.”

“That’s ridiculous,” laughed the glowing being. “It’s just a hat. You’re making too much of this.”

Amalia thought about that for a few minutes. Who was right? How could her hat be God? It was just a symbol. She looked down at it as she held it with both hands. Both hands. And then it hit her. Instead of holding on to Jesus, she was holding on to the hat. Somewhere along the way, she had started trusting the hat as if it was Jesus. Even though it had started off innocently enough, somehow the symbolic hat had become an idol. She had looked to it for peace and comfort and even guidance, instead of looking to the real Jesus. Guilt stricken, she admitted she had made her hat like a god.

“I’m sorry, Jesus. I don’t want A god. I want THE God. I want You.” She stretched out her 0711202130 (2)hand, intending to toss the hat away, but froze. She couldn’t make her fingers move. Her love for the hat made it too painful to let the hat go.  Wasn’t there a way to keep both God and the hat? She knew the difference now, so the hat wouldn’t be an idol anymore. Couldn’t she keep it just as a hat? It was so cute and comfortable.

“Sure, it’s just a hat. There’s nothing wrong with keeping it. Jesus is being too hard on you,” the being’s sugary voice washed over her.

“Amalia,” was all Jesus said.

Confused, she looked from one to the other. Why was this so hard? She knew she should be listening to Jesus. She wanted to obey Him. So why was she so tempted to listen to the other voices – both the one in front of her and the one inside her? And worse of all, the hat itself seemed to be pleading to stay as she gazed at it. Tormented by her indecision, she found she couldn’t move in either direction. She couldn’t drop the hat, nor could she pull in her arm.

“Keep the hat, Amalia,” the being whispered. “It’s okay. Jesus knows how much you love it. And He’s all about love, isn’t He?”

“Yes, I mean no.” Confusion and anxiety continued to grow until she thought she was going to break. “Jesus, help me!” she cried out.

“Jesus, help me,” the being mimicked in a sarcastic tone. “He’s not going to …”

“Amalia,” Jesus said. “Look at Me.”

As soon as she did, confusion melted away. She knew which voice to listen to. But the other voices were so loud, still drawing her attention.

“Resist them,” Jesus said, “and they will go away.”

Amalia closed her eyes and focused on Jesus’ words. As hard as it was, she refused to think about the other voices. She refused to give in to their demands. After a while, she found she didn’t have to try as hard. The voices were diminishing, making it easy to stay focused on what Jesus had said. When they had totally disappeared, she cautiously opened her eyes. The being was gone. And so was her attachment to her hat. Easily letting it fall over the side of the car, she smiled. Jesus was infinitely better than any hat, even a cute faded teal one.

She looked at Him, full of shame for what she had done. But instead of the chastisement she deserved, she found Him smiling at her with pleasure. “Well done,” He said. The car gave a lurch and they started moving again. “Time to move on.”

“Yes, let’s get out of here,” Amalia answered, grabbing His hand. “I don’t want to ever face that being again.”

“I know, but you will. He’s not limited to just this room, and he is not going to give up trying to get you away from Me. And neither are all those other beings. But now you know what to do whenever he comes around.”

“Will resisting him always work?”

“Yes. The amount of effort it will take may vary, but in the end, he must leave. The same is true for his servants.”

Amalia leaned against Jesus, both hands holding His. Eyes now fully focused on Him, she didn’t look back as the car went around a corner and through a door, leaving the harsh light and a small hat behind.

 

 


The story behind the story:

When I was a new Christian, I bought a silver cross to represent my new faith. I was so excited about Jesus that I wore that cross day and night, never taking it off. One day, about a year later, I looked at it with dismay. It had become so shapeless I could barely discern that it had ever been a cross. I couldn’t wear it like that, so I took it off. Soon I had numerous experiences with fear, such as hearing a noise and worrying about someone breaking into my house. Each time I reached for my cross, and felt unprotected when it wasn’t there.  It didn’t take long to realize that I was looking to the cross for proof of God’s presence and promise, instead of trusting His word. In a way, my cross had become an idol. It’s so easy rely on the tangible instead of the intangible, and the transfer of faith is so subtle we don’t always realize it’s happening. That must be one reason the Israelites had so much trouble staying away from idols. My experience with that small silver cross taught me a lesson and I have been careful ever since to make sure my faith remains where it should and not on any object.

As for the glowing beings in my story, I’m still learning.

 

Scriptures:

James 4:7  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

2 Cor 11:14-15 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Rev 12:9 The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Exodus 34:17 Do not make any idols.

Lev 19:4  Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the LORD your God.

Amusement Park: The Hat, part 1

Amusement Park: The Hat, part 1

Amalia and Jesus walked slowly. They had been on many of the rides, and now they were happy just to spend a few moments just being together. No lessons. No adventures. No temptations. No surprises. Amalia sighed with pleasure.

As they meandered past rides she had been on, and rides she hadn’t, Amalia spotted a small shop she hadn’t seen before. “Souvenirs” was written on a large sign above the front door. Smiling, she tugged on Jesus’ hand. “Let’s go in there! I want to see what they have.”

The shop was amazing. Amalia gazed with wonder at the myriad of objects displayed on racks and counters, in boxes and tubs, and even hanging from the ceiling. She fingered a t-shirt with a picture of a large roller coaster with the matching words, “I Survived the Roller Coaster!” She rifled through the shirts and was amused that each ride seemed to have its own shirt, even the gentle merry-go-round. Moving on she found water bottles, key chains, magnets, tote bags, cups, post cards, wallets, lanyards, jewelry, flash lights, umbrellas, kites, and sandals. And she hadn’t even made it halfway through the shop yet. She was especially intrigued with the snow globes. There were so many of them, each containing a miniature replica of a ride. There was a tiny Ferris wheel in one that spun as she shook it. A train went around in a circle in another one. A third contained a tiny boat floating on turquoise water. She picked up one after another to watch the rides move, wishing she had enough money to buy each of them. Those would be so much fun to play with when she got home, and would help her to remember what she had learned while here. But knowing she didn’t, she gave them a sad little wave, and moved on.

While she moved further and further into the shop, she noticed that Jesus hadn’t said anything. He wasn’t even looking at the all the interesting things she was finding. He was looking at her. Puzzled, she wondered what He was thinking. But before she could ask Him, she was distracted by a large, colorful display. Hats! She loved hats! Trying on one after another, she knew this was the one thing in this whole shop she wouldn’t be able to resist. The only question was which one? The large, floppy ones with colorful bands? The beanies? The ones with flaps on the back to keep necks from getting sunburned? The soft felt ones with the playful feathers? And then she knew. A baseball styled cap’s bill would shade her eyes while the snug fit would keep the wind from blowing it off her head. Now… which color? Dismissing the bright colors, she considered the earth tones. They all looked so good, but eventually it came down to the faded teal blue or the dusty rose. Holding one in each hand, she turned to Jesus. “What do you think?”

“You don’t need a hat.”

“That’s not what I meant, but okay. Why don’t I need a hat?”

“You already have a few hats.”

“Those are just plain hats. Look! This one has the name of the amusement park on it. It will help me remember being here with you.”

“You don’t need a hat to remember. Get it if you really want it, but you don’t need it.”

Amalia frowned. She wanted a souvenir hat. Turning from Jesus, she decided on the blue one, and took it to the counter to pay for it.

Outside, new hat on her head, she continued walking with Jesus. But the delight she had 0710201250had walking with Him before entering the shop was missing. It was still a nice walk, but something was different. It was like something had come between them. Was it the hat? He had said to get it if she really wanted it so it wasn’t disobedience. Then what was it? She couldn’t put her finger on it, and eventually gave up, focusing on her hat instead. It was a great hat – so incredibly comfortable, and worked even better at shielding her eyes from the sun than she had hoped for. She couldn’t resist reaching up every few minutes to feel its comforting cotton texture, or to tap its sturdy bill. It was not just any hat. It was a hat that symbolized being with Jesus. This connection was so strong that touching the hat was almost like touching Himi, and her love for the hat deepened each time she did. How could anything this good be bad? Why would Jesus not want her to have this? Maybe she should ask Him again.

She turned to Him just in time to hear Him say, “…to go on before we leave.” She had been so consumed with her own thoughts that she hadn’t noticed Jesus had been talking to her.

“Sorry, what did you say?” she asked Him.

“Ah… so I have your attention again.” He smiled. “I was saying, there is a ride we need to go back to before we leave. Do you want to do it now?”

“Which one is it?”

“The haunted house.”

“The haunted house? Why do we have to do that one again?” Amalia thought of the different rooms, and how hard some of them were. She didn’t want to go back to those. Not even the mountain one. Although the top was incredible, she was not yet ready to repeat the brutal journey to get there.

“There’s a room in there that we skipped.”

Amalia brightened with the realization she wouldn’t have to go through any of those difficult rooms again. “A room we skipped? How did we do that? Which one?”

“I didn’t think you were ready for it, so I didn’t take you through it. But I think now would be a good time.”

“What’s the room like?”

“Well, that would be spoiling the surprise, wouldn’t it? You’ll just have to wait and see.”

Amalia thought for a few minutes. None of the rides had been as they had looked. Each contained something totally unexpected. Was she up for another of His “surprises”? Well, if He said this was a good time, then it must be a good time. She would just have to trust Him.

“Sure, let’s do it.”

 

To be continued.