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.

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 1

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 1

Still staring at her image, Amalia didn’t notice the car start up and push through the next door. Could this really be her? If Jesus said it was, then it had to be. But she couldn’t believe it. She knew herself better.  A warrior? She was so full of fears and insecurities that she doubted she could ever battle anything. Right now she was a nobody, not some great warrior. And she was hardly confident or joyful most days. If the mirror was showing what Jesus saw when He looked at her, like He said it did, then it must be how Jesus saw her as she would be one day when she got to heaven. Certainly not as she was right now.

Slowly the sounds of birds singing and leaves rustling in the wind penetrated her thoughts. She lowered the mirror and looked around with confused pleasure as the car came to another stop. They were at the edge of a grassy field, with colorful flowers dotting the ground for as far as she could see. Here and there large spreading trees were providing shade and protection to the birds that flew around their branches. But neither the flowers nor the trees compared to the majestic mountains she could see in the far distance.

How could this be? They were in a haunted house. A house with walls and a ceiling. And yet it appeared that they were now in an open field, maybe a valley, leading to some gorgeous mountains. Amalia frowned in concentration, trying to make sense of what she saw, heard, and felt. The mountains could just be an incredible painted mural, the breeze could be created by hidden fans, and the bird songs could be recordings. But those were real flowers, and they went on for what appeared to be miles. More mirrors? And what about the trees? They were huge, too big to fit in this building. But they were definitely real. The nearest one was so close she could make out the design of its bark.

“Jesus, where are we?”

“We are right where we’re supposed to be. Come on, from here we have to walk. The next door is over those mountains.”

Amalia sat, eyes moving over the landscape. Surely she had heard Him wrong. “We have to walk?”

He was already climbing out of the car. “Come on, let’s get started.”

She slowly climbed out, still looking around with wide eyes. Wherever they were, Jesus was enjoying it. Maybe she should quit trying to figure it out, and just enjoy it like He was. Besides, if they had to get out and walk in one of the rooms of this crazy house, this one was by far the best one.

As they walked, she couldn’t get enough of the beauty all around her. The deep green of the grass blades complemented the brilliant white of the clouds floating in a cobalt blue sky.  And those flowers! The soft, colorful petals, each so different and yet perfectly shaped! Bees buzzed in and around many of them, joining the soft sounds of bird calls and rustling leaves. Inhaling deeply, she sighed. This place was much better than anywhere else she could imagine. Not even those scary looking mountains could contain as much beauty as this place. Why did she have to climb them anyway? They looked way harder than anything she had ever done before. Why couldn’t Jesus just make an easier way to get to the car? Even better, why even get to the car at all? Why not stay here? It was so perfect here, with none of the problems and worries that seemed to fill the world outside this place.

She stopped, and turned to Jesus. “Can we just stay here? With You, I won’t need anything else.”

He chuckled. “Well, it’s true that with Me you have everything. But you weren’t made to stay here. We have a ride to finish, and the car is on the other side of those mountains.”

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He pointed to them with such great joy and excitement that Amalia wondered what He was seeing that she didn’t see. Didn’t He know how difficult this looked to her? Hadn’t He noticed how dubious she felt? If He would just tell her what He saw, she might feel better about the whole thing. And yet He didn’t. Sometimes He could be so frustrating. Sighing, she began walking.

At first it was easy, but the incline of the field grew steadily steeper, and soon she lost sight of the beauty of the place as she focused on her feet and on her breathing. The lush green grass had grown sparse in places, with patches of rocks and loose dirt that caused her feet to frequently stumble. She began to regret wearing sandals instead of hiking shoes. But then, how was she to know she would end up where she was?

“I’m here. Take My hand. I won’t let you fall,” she heard Jesus say when she had stumbled the first time. She did, and found that holding on to Him steadied her. But as they walked, she kept finding the need to use both hands to shake out small pebbles that got in her sandals, or to shade her eyes from the bright sun while she pushed the taller weeds out of her way. As the inclined steepened, she stumbled more frequently. Sometimes she remembered to grab His hand. Or His shoulder. Or His clothes. But other times, she was too busy flailing her arms in panic to think of Him, so He would reach out to her with His steadying arm.

Finally He told her, “Let’s sit down and rest for a few minutes.”

She sank down and closed her eyes in relief. Walking with Jesus in this room was a lot harder than it looked. She had thought it would be easy, surrounded by beauty all the way. But she hadn’t expected the increase in slope to make such a difference. It also seemed the harder the walk became, the harder it was to see the beauty. Well, she had to admit, the beauty was still there, but the more she focused on her feet, the less of the beauty she saw. Maybe, when they continued walking, she should try to keep her eyes looking upward instead of downward.

All too soon, Jesus pulled her up, and they continued their walk towards the mountains. As they walked, He told her of what to expect.

“It’s quite high so we will have to go slower. There are paths in some areas, but in others, we will have to make our own way. There are dangers everywhere: animals, poisonous plants, cliffs, and sudden storms. You will get tired. You will get hungry. You will want to quit. But be assured that I am with You. I can keep you safe from every danger, as long as you do as I say.”

“If it’s that hard, why do we have to climb it? You can do anything, so why can’t You just make this mountain disappear?”

“Sometimes a mountain can be moved, but others, like this one, must be climbed. It’s for your good.”

“Well, if I have to go over it, can You at least carry me?”

“Sure, I can carry you from time to time.  But I can’t climb this whole mountain for you. You need the strength and wisdom you will gain from climbing it. “

Amalia looked doubtfully at the mountains that seemed to be approaching quickly. “I don’t think I want to go any further. I’m not ready.”

“Yes, you are, or I wouldn’t have brought you here.”

“But I don’t have any climbing gear. I don’t have any food or water or first aid supplies. I don’t have the knowledge to differentiate between good plants from poisonous ones. And I don’t have a weapon to fight off wild animals. I have nothing. Not even hiking boots.”

“You have everything you need. You have Me.”

“But You don’t have a back pack either. What if my sandal strap breaks and I have to travel barefooted. I’ll get blisters, which will probably get infected, and with no medicine, I’ll probably end up losing my feet. Let’s just go back. There must be another way.”

He laughed. “You won’t lose your feet. I am your healer.”

“But what if an animal attacks me while You’re not looking? I have nothing to defend myself with. I don’t want to get hurt. Even though You can heal me, it will surely delay our journey. Let’s go back to the safety of the field.”

“You won’t be hurt as long as you stay near Me. I am your protector.”

Amalia looked at Jesus’ empty hands. Did He have a knife hidden up His sleeve? Or maybe He was planning on finding some sturdy branches to use? “But You don’t have anything, either.”

She thought of another reason not to keep going. “I don’t have any water. And without water purification tablets, I can’t drink the water in any streams we find. I’m going to get dehydrated. And then I’ll get dizzy and weak and confused. I’ll be too sick to go on and end up dying on this mountain.”

He reached for and squeezed her hand. “You won’t die of thirst. I am your provider.”

But what if I’m walking along a path and suddenly find myself on a cliff? My balance is not all that great now. I know I will fall! Can’t we get to the door by going through the field, and completely avoid these mountains?”

He smiled and shook His head. “You will not fall. I am your guide and will keep you away from cliffs.”

No matter what objections Amalia came up with, Jesus seemed amused and had an answer. Evidently He wanted her up that mountain whether she wanted to or not, but that didn’t stop her from trying to talk Him out of it with new reasons as they came to her. She was increasingly dismayed to see that the closer they got to the mountains, the higher and harder and scarier they looked. In fact, she couldn’t even see the tops of the higher ones.

“Don’t worry,” Jesus told her, seeing the worry on her face. “The way is hard, but the reward is more than you can imagine. When we get to the top, you will be so grateful to have made the climb. I can’t wait to celebrate up there with you! However, there is one thing you need to do before we begin.”

“Run the other way?” she asked, looking behind her as if the car would suddenly appear. “This is just a joke, right?”

“Nope, no joke.” He spoke seriously now. “Before we start, you’ll need to make a commitment to follow Me no matter how rough it gets, or how long it takes. That commitment will help you when you think you can’t go on. Do you trust Me? Will you make that commitment?”

Amalia thought about it. She looked up at the mountain, and then down the way they had come. “What if I decide not to go?”

“It’s your choice. Just know this: if you go back, you will never know what you’ll have missed. And since the car is on the other side of this mountain, you will not be able to progress through this haunted house. You will be stuck in that field. As beautiful as it is, do you really want to be stuck there… or go back to the room with the mirrors… or the floorless room… or…”

“Okay, I get the point. It’s go forwards or go nowhere. You did this to me on purpose, didn’t You? You knew before we even entered this haunted house that I would be faced with this decision.”

Jesus winked at her. “And I even know what you’re going to decide.”

Sighing, she resigned herself to her fate. “Okay, if we’re going to die, let’s get it over with.”

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Fifth Room – Mirrors

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Fifth Room – Mirrors

They entered the light of the next room, much brighter than the light of the previous rooms, and immediately Amalia saw why. Mirrors.  Mirrors of all sizes, shapes, colors, and styles were reflecting and re-reflecting light beams across the room until the room seemed to glow.

At first Amalia enjoyed the mirrors. They were all intriguing as they each reflected the other mirrors around them. As she looked into each one, it seemed as there was a depth in them well beyond what she was familiar with in the mirrors at her home. It almost seemed that each mirror held its own little world.

As she passed the first mirror, she looked at her reflection and gasped. She knew she had been eating more than usual lately, but had she really put on that much weight? Well, as soon as she got home, she was going to do something about that. Maybe walking a few extra miles each day would help.

She looked away, not liking what she saw, only to find herself looking into another mirror. What? Confused, she gazed at the skinny girl in the mirror. She wasn’t overweight? That was good, but being so underweight wasn’t much better. She looked all boney and awkward. Maybe she should eat more. But what if the first mirror was right, and this mirror was wrong, somehow?

Confused, she shifted her gaze to the next mirror. In this one, she was neither too skinny nor too fat. But she was green. Green? How was that even possible?

Before she could think of a reason, she caught a glimpse of herself in yet another mirror. Wait! She was beautiful! Golden tan body, long silky black hair, perfectly proportioned body parts. She smiled, enjoying this view. Yet at the same time, she knew there was something wrong with it. Her hair was brown, not black. And it was curly, not straight. Sighing, she let that image slide by.

The next mirror showed her that her head was too big for her body. She looked grotesque. She shrunk away from this image, willing it to disappear. But that only made it worse.

Confusion filled her as she continued to look at her image in one mirror after another. So many images – each totally different from the others – filled her eyes and mind until she forgot what she really looked like. Was she really as wild looking as the brown mirror showed, or as sickly as she looked in this blue mirror? Was she as self-confident as the red mirror made her look, or as scared as she appeared in the silver mirror?

 

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Confusion turned to anxiety as Amalia lost all sense of who she was as well as where she was. There was nothing in her life but mirrors that she no longer wanted to look into, full of images she didn’t want to deal with. So she closed her eyes and withdrew within herself.

At first she didn’t notice the gentle squeeze on her hand. Then it came again, a little stronger, bringing with it a memory. She wasn’t alone. Jesus was with her.

Keeping her eyes closed, she asked, “Jesus, how can You still be here with me? I’m so messed up.”

“Of course I’m still here. I promised you I would be, and I always keep My promises.”

“I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

“I’ve told you who you are.”

“But that’s not what I see when I look in these mirrors.”

“Ah, I see your confusion. These mirrors show you how different people in your life see you, which affects how you see yourself.”

“They are all so different. Which one is right?”

“None of them. They are all imperfect.”

“None? Some do look kind of odd, but most look like perfectly decent mirrors. How can they not reflect the truth?”

“Because no matter how straight they look, the way each mirror’s glass was created caused different amount of bends, just like how life experiences and belief systems cause bends in how people see the things around them. Some people have straighter glass than others, but even the straightest of those have some bend to them. It’s the bend, which most people are not aware of, that distorts what is reflected back to you. When you look at yourself through their glass, your view is distorted by the amount of bend they have. There is only one mirror that has no bend.”

Amalia, eyes still closed, thought of the various images she had seen, wondering which one had been in the one straight mirror. She wanted it to be one of the beautiful ones, but there were so many more ugly ones that she felt it had to be one of those. She was afraid to ask Jesus to reveal the correct one just in case it was one of the uglier ones.

But Jesus knew what she was thinking. “I have something for you, Amalia. But you’ll have to open your eyes to use it.”

“What is it?”

“It’s My mirror. It will show you what I see when I look at you. It will show you the truth about yourself because it’s the only mirror with no bends.”

“I don’t know if I want it.” Fear of finding out that she really was ugly was stronger than her curiosity.

“It’s up to you. I can’t force you to take it, nor to look in it. When you are ready, it will be here for you.”

Amalia felt the car slow down and then stop.

“Jesus, why did we stop? I want to get out of this room.”

“Your eyes are still closed. You won’t be able to see what’s in the next room until you open them.”

“But I don’t want to look into any more mirrors.”

“There’s only one mirror you need to look into.”

After a few minutes musing over the possibility of staying in this room forever, the desire to move on with Jesus overcame her fear, and she opened her eyes. Jesus was holding a small mirror in front of her, just big enough to reflect her image without confusing it with images of the other mirrors.

What she saw took her breath away! Her image revealed a strong warrior glowing with good health and vitality. Confidence radiated from her smile, and her eyes sparkled with joy. There wasn’t a blemish on her.

Amalia, unable to take her eyes off her image, heard Jesus whisper, “Now you see what I see when I look at you.”

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Fourth Room – Floorless

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Fourth Room – Floorless

Amalia regretted seeing the next door approaching quickly. She had liked this room, with all its fun toys and marvelous possibilities. Yet she was curious about what the next room contained. Maybe more people. Or maybe another quiet time in the dark with Jesus. But when the door opened, she gasped. No way was she prepared for this!

“Stop! Stop!” she screamed.

“What’s wrong?” Jesus asked.

“We… the car…there’s no floor! We have to stop this car!”

“It will be okay. You’re with Me. You’re safe.”

“Noooooo! Stop the car!”

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Jesus reached for the emergency brake and stopped the car just as it passed the door frame. He turned to Amalia, and gently said, “Look at Me.”

But Amalia couldn’t take her eyes from what lay before them. Or rather what didn’t lay before them. The track was gone. The floor itself was gone. She could see the door on the other side of the room. But between her and the door, there was… nothing. Peeking over the side of the car, she looked down. Way down. The hole filled the entire room and grew increasingly dark the further down she looked until all she could see was blackness at the bottom. If there was a bottom.

“Amalia, look at Me.”

“Jesus, there’s no bottom! We can’t go this way. We have to go back!” Amalia couldn’t tear her eyes from the horror that seemed to be waiting for her.

“There is no going back. But you are safe. You are with Me.”

“Easy for You to say. You’re God. You can easily jump across this hole. Or fly across. You could even walk on thin air if You wanted to. But I’m just a human girl, and not even a very strong girl. There’s no way I could jump across to the other side. If I move even a few inches, I’m going to fall and die.” Amalia shuddered. “We have to go back. We can get out of this car and walk back if we have to.”

“You’re not going to fall. You’re in this car with Me. It will be okay. Let’s keep going.”

“This car is even heavier than I am. If we go forward, we’re going down. At least I will. I’m not a spirit like You. I can’t just disappear and reappear on the other side.” Amalia’s voice shook as she continued to stare down into the abyss.

“Amalia, didn’t you agree before we started this ride to stay with Me through the whole thing?”

“Yes, but…”

“And didn’t you say you trusted Me to know what’s best for you?”

“Yes, but…”  Amalia’s wide eyes darted around frantically. “But… there’s NO FLOOR!”

“AMALIA! LOOK AT ME!”

His strong commanding voice broke through her fear, and she turned to look at Him. He almost never used that voice with her, and, although she should have felt chastised, she didn’t. She actually felt reassured. He was in charge, not her.

“Good,” Jesus smiled warmly at her, while maintaining eye contact. “Will you trust Me?”

Amalia thought of all the times He had been there for her in the past. How faithful He had been regardless of her weaknesses and failures. And how nothing was impossible for Him. If He wanted her to cross this nothingness, then somehow He would make it happen. And if not… if He wanted her to die in this place.. then she would die. She had given herself to Him years ago so she didn’t belong to herself anymore anyway. He could do whatever He wanted with her. Nodding with her decision, she answered Him with a soft, resigned voice.

“Yes, Jesus. I will trust You. If you want me safely on the other side, then I will trust You to get me there. And if You want me to fall forever into this deep dark hole, then down I will go. Your will be done, not mine.”

Amalia closed her eyes as she felt the car lurch forward, her hand tightly clutching His hand, and prepared to fall.

A moment later a brightness penetrated Amalia’s closed eyes. Confused, she called out, “Jesus?”

“I’m here.”

“What’s happening? Am I dead?”

He laughed. “Well, actually, you are. But not like you’re thinking. Open your eyes.”

She did, and saw they were at the next door. Twisting around, she looked behind her at the floorless room they had just crossed. What? How? She turned back to Jesus. “How did we do that?”

“I told you to trust Me. So many times what you see and fear is so much worse than the reality. Where you saw empty space, I saw a firm path. Where you saw an inevitable drop into oblivion, I saw a marvelous opportunity to manifest My power.” He gave her hand a squeeze. “Thank you for trusting Me. Let’s keep going.”

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Third Room – Things

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Third Room – Things

Suddenly a jarring startled Amalia into full wakefulness as the car crashed through a door and entered another bright room. Whereas the other room had been large and filled with people, this room was smaller and filled with all her favorite things. Amalia stared around her with awe.

 

The walls were covered with a great variety of colorful fabrics. From soft greens and blues to vibrant purples and reds, in all sorts of patterns and textures, the fabrics seem to call out to her. Amalia reached out as if to touch the soft, fuzzy fleece closest to her, while eyeing the shiny silk of another piece.

She wanted to stop, to enjoy these fabrics, but then she noticed the rocks scattered around. Rocks of every size, shape, and color. Shiny rocks with golden specks. Flat rocks just begging to be painted with fun pictures and inspiring words. On small tables here and there were sets of paint pens in fun colors. Some of the tables also held containers of paint and a wide assortment of brushes. Amalia’s excitement grew. She wanted to get out of the car and run to the nearest table. She wanted to create masterpieces, and to share them with other people.

But before she could move, she noticed a patch of freshly dug earth and crates of new plants, a few spades, a shovel, and garden gloves. Forget the gloves – she wanted to plunge her hands deep into that soft dirt, and to enjoy the rich, earthy aroma as she planted the young plants. She imagined the contentment she always felt gazing at the beauty of a newly laid garden. Surely they could stop here long enough to plant some flowers.

But again, before she could jump out of the car, she saw computers and keyboards and notebooks and pens. And, oh, lots of colored pencils, all freshly sharpened! Her fingers itched to touch them, to transfer her thoughts and dreams to paper. She wanted to use them to help people who were struggling, to encourage them to keep moving just as she kept moving.

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She lifted her foot over the edge of the car, ready to jump out. She was so busy looking and anticipating all the things that she wanted to do, that she didn’t notice that her sense of peace had disappeared, along with all the soft words that had filled her heart. In its place grew a sense of busyness as she planned out what she would do once out of the car. The busyness grew until she was so preoccupied with it that she thought of nothing else. It wasn’t long before she was thinking in terms of everything being ‘hers’: her tools, her inspiration, her work, her plans, her life.

“Amalia.”

The voice managed to break through her thoughts, and she hesitated. Jesus? Jesus was here, somewhere. He said He would be. And all of the things in this room were good things. She was even going to help people with them. Surely He would approve of her stopping here for a while. She again moved to jump out of the car.

“Amalia.”

Her brain struggled between the enticing things that pulled at her and the quiet voice of Her Friend. She knew she would have to choose one over the other. There was no way she could focus on both. Yet the call of all those fascinating things seemed to overshadow the quiet voice she had grown to know so well.

“Amalia.”

She closed her eyes, willing herself to shift her focus. Slowly she let go of her thoughts – thoughts full of all her plans and desires – and focused on the voice still calling her name.

“Amalia… Amy, my Beloved… this room is filled with the many things you love and that keep you busy. They are all good things. But you can easily get so absorbed in them that you forget I am here.”

Amalia nodded. “Yes, I can see how that happened. My focus shifted from the comfortable companionship we had had in the darkness to the world of pleasure around me. I kind of did forget You. I knew You were still around, but You were no longer the focus of my life.”

She opened her eyes and turned to look at Jesus. “Is it wrong, then, to do these things?”

“No, definitely not. They are all important, if done at the right times and for the right reasons. I actually want you to do them. I plant that desire in you, and gift you with the abilities to do them. Just don’t run off when you see something catches your attention. Bring Me with you. I will keep you balanced so that they don’t consume you. And I can bless your work to become more powerful and to achieve greater results than you could do on your own.”

Amalia nodded again. “Forgive me for trying to run off. Help me to stay focused on you no matter how crazy or interesting life gets around me.”

“That’s one reason I asked you to hold My hand. It keeps us connected.”

“Oh, that’s right. As long as I’m holding Your hand, I can enjoy what’s around me. I might not always be able to hear You over the pull of these things, but I can always feel Your hand.”

Jesus nodded at her. “I can always hear you, though. Even when you only think it.

He continued to talk to her about the different things He wanted her to enjoy as they crossed the room.  The comfortable companionship they had shared earlier returned as she dreamed of the possibilities He was suggesting, all the time keeping full awareness of His hand in the forefront of her thoughts.

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, Second Room – Darkness

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, Second Room – Darkness

Amalia was glad to see that they had finally crossed the bright, noisy room and the next door was just before them. But her gladness was short-lived. As they went through the doorway they were plunged into darkness. A darkness so dense, she couldn’t see the handlebars she was holding on to. At first she was fearful. What was lurking in the darkness? What if the path changed direction? She clutched at the bars as her whole body tensed. She wouldn’t be able to anticipate a change, and it might cause her to fall out of the car. How long would this darkness last? How far was it to the next door?

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Yet there were no sounds in the darkness, no sense of danger. It was actually kind of peaceful, especially after all the commotion in the previous room. Slowly Amalia relaxed her grip. This wasn’t so bad. She could do this. And as her eyes adjusted, she noticed that there was a very dim light coming from somewhere. It was so faint that she still couldn’t see anything in that room, but she could just make out the form of Jesus sitting next to her.

“Jesus, I’m glad You’re here. Even though I know I could have handled this darkness on my own, it’s more fun to have You with me.”

He smiled. “Lean back on me, and relax. Everyone needs time alone with me, without anything else to distract them. It’s a time to rest, and to soak in My presence.”

Amalia snuggled back against Him and sighed. There was a peace here, a sense contentment that she wasn’t used to. It was a good place to be, and she was determined to enjoy every inch, not caring how long it lasted.

As she rested, Jesus murmured intimate words of love, encouragement, strength, and promise into her ears. His words were so soft she almost couldn’t distinguish one word from another. And yet she could feel the warmth of His voice surrounding her and filling her heart with so much comfort and love that she didn’t know how she would be able to contain it. Yes, this was a great place to be, and, between the vibration of the car and the voice of her Friend, she was soon lulled into a delicious nap.

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, First Room – People

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, First Room – People

The ride started off slow and easy. Not too bad so far. But Amalia knew enough about haunted houses to know it wouldn’t stay this way for long.

“Amalia, hold my hand. It will help you know I am with you every inch of the way. When you get nervous, or feel lost, or when we enter the places of darkness, squeeze My hand and I’ll squeeze back reassuring you that I’m still with you. And remember that nothing bad can happen to you when I’m in the car with you.”

They went around a bend, and entered a large, bright, noisy room. People were everywhere! They were on both sides of the track which went straight through the room to another doorway. Some of the people were engaged in a variety of sports including ball games, skating, bike riding, throwing Frisbees, and jogging. Others were busy with quieter activities such as reading, eating, and conversing with each other. A few were napping, and there was at least one group that appeared to be on some kind of tour led by a guide who was pointing in different directions. She watched as a woman lead a line of kids on one side of the track, while two kids appeared to be playing tag on the other.  Most of the people seemed not to notice Amalia and Jesus pass by.

 

However, a few people did notice.

“Hey, there! How’s the ride going?”

“Have fun!”

One group waved, and then got back to their game.

Some people tossing around a beach ball stopped to call out an invitation. “We are having so much fun! Come join us!”

Amalia was tempted to join them. They all appeared to be having such a great time. But when she looked at Jesus with questioning eyes, He just shook His head and the car kept moving.

Before long, the nicer comments were replaced by not-so-nice comments:

“Hey, you’re going the wrong way.”0420200800 (2)

“Where are you going? You should be here with us!”

“Who are you to think it’s okay to keep moving?”

 

As the car continued to move, the comments turned into curses and threats. Some of the angry people threw things at the car, and a few even went so far as to jump at the car. Amalia shrunk back into her seat, but no matter how close they got – so close Amalia could almost feel them – none of them actually touched her or Jesus.

Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t seem bothered by their threatening behavior. His calm voice pulled her attention back to Him as He said, “This room is filled with the people in your life. Most people you encounter don’t pay much attention to you. They are busy with their own lives, and so you pass unnoticed. Other people, however, do notice you. Some of those people are happy to see you and encourage you as you travel your path. They understand that they have their lives and you have yours. A few of them, though, try to persuade you to leave your path to join them on their path. They enjoy their lives and think everyone should do what they do. They have good intentions, but they don’t understand that not everyone is called to do what they do. But, then, there are a number of people, motivated by their own pain, mental illnesses, or even by demonic suggestion, who attack you. They see you moving past them and resent it. They don’t want to move on themselves, and they don’t want you to either. So they try to make you stop by making you feel bad or afraid. But stopping won’t help them. You can’t help those who don’t want to be helped. Ignoring them and moving on is the best thing to do.”

So they did.

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, Prologue

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, Prologue

“Where do you want to go?” Jesus asked Amalia one day as they headed out the door.

“The field – where it’s familiar and peaceful.” she answered. She loved that field, with its flowers and sparkling blue lake. She imagined walking slowly along with Him, enjoying the peace and companionship she had grown to expect when there.

But that’s not what she found on the other side of the door.

“Wait, that’s not our field.”  She tried to stop Jesus, but He continued to walk, pulling her along with Him.

“Nope, I have a better idea.”

He joyfully led her towards a long canopy-like covering, such as you would find at fancy events or carnivals. Through the opening, she could see a hint of a variety of amusement park rides. An amusement park? With all its activity and noises and smells?  This was not a peaceful place, where they could just enjoy being together. Maybe He had another idea in mind. Maybe He was going to show how the distractions of life could keep her too busy for quiet times with Him. However, that was not likely because of His attitude. He was happy, so this amusement park was not a bad place. Maybe it represented her life. Maybe the rides were the different activities she was involved in: kindness rocks, writing, spending time with her granddaughter,  journaling, reading her Bible, attending small group and church. Each one was a ride of its own. And she could go from one to another as she wanted. Is that how God saw her life? As an amusement park?

“Yes.” Jesus nodded at her. “An amusement park is fun. Your life is supposed to be fun, too. But you make it so serious. I give you these things for your enjoyment, not to make you work hard. You get so caught up in the smallest details, and want everything you do to be perfect. Don’t worry so much about the imperfections. Nothing you do can be perfect as I am the only perfection in your life. Besides, no one else cares. Have fun. Relax. Choose to be with Me as you go from one ride to another. I want to ride them all with you. I want to laugh with you at the thrill of new discoveries and sudden solutions: not fear what might happen. I know how the unknown scares you. These rides are designed to help you learn to not only cope, but actually enjoy the unknown. Talk with me as you feel anxiety rising. I will reassure you until you get comfortable with the feeling of the thrill, and no longer worry.”

“Which ride are we going to do first?” she asked, looking around, and wondering about what He had just told her. Life was supposed to be fun? All of life?  0420200800b (2)

“Let’s do the haunted house.”

“Really? There’s a haunted house here? In this place with You?”

“It’s not what you think. This ride is about life circumstances that pop up and scare you, demons that try to mess with your head, times of darkness where you can’t see where you’re going, and other things that make life uncomfortable for you.”

“I’m not so sure I want to go on this ride. Can’t we go on a different one? Like maybe the merry-go-round?”

“We could. But I think this one is the right one for this moment. Do you trust Me to know what’s best for you?”

“Yes, You’ve shown me that many times over the years.”

“So will you ride this one with Me?”

Amalia looked dubious. She didn’t like haunted houses. She didn’t like the unknown. She felt anxious just at the thought of what she might face in there. And yet, Jesus wanted her to do this.  “Well, okay, if you really want me to.”

“And will you promise to ride all the way to the end with Me?”

“I don’t think I have much choice. Once I get in there, it’s not like we can just turn the car around. I guess I could get out of the car and walk back out, but that sounds worse than staying put in the car. Okay. if You promise to stay with me, then yes, I will ride to the end with You.”

Jesus smiled as He led her to the first car. As they sat down, He smiled. “Ready?”

She nodded, and realized she really was ready.