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.

God, Why Don’t You Answer?

“There’s a disturbance down south,” they said.

No problem. There’re always disturbances in the tropics, she thought as she went about her normal, everyday activities.

“The disturbance is now a depression,” they said.

That’s fine, she thought. Depressions are nothing. And besides, it’ll probably go towards Texas like so many others. Not likely to come here to Panama City.

“The depression is now a storm named Michael, and will probably hit Northwest Florida as a possible category 1 hurricane. Not too likely, but it might happen,” they said.

Okaaaay, not really a threat, but something to watch, she thought as she took her daily walk around her neighborhood.

“The storm is intensifying. It will hit Northwest Florida as a category 1 hurricane in a few days. Start preparing now,” they said.

Hmmm, she thought. I guess I should pick up loose objects outside to keep them from blowing away. But still no big deal. We’ll probably only get a little bit of wind and some rain, like all those other hurricanes that have come this way.

“Michael is now category 1 with signs of strengthening. Everyone in Northwest Florida should be preparing now. Watch for updates and start making plans in case you need to evacuate,” they said.

Evacuate? No, not for a cat 1 storm. But what if it gets to cat 2 before it gets here? “Lord, should we leave?” she prayed but got no answer.

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“Michael is now category 2. Its pressure is dropping signifying that it might possibly strengthen to a category 3 before making landfall somewhere between Pensacola and Apalachicola.  Storm surge will be 4-6 feet. Find out your zone now and listen for mandatory evacuation orders,” they said.

This is getting serious, she thought. Maybe we should leave. “Lord,” she prayed again, “what should we do?” She thought she heard, “leave”, but she wasn’t sure so she asked God to tell her husband the same thing. Her husband, watching the latest update, said, “We’re going to stay. Our house is built to hurricane code. We’ll be fine.” OK, she thought. It wasn’t God.

“Michael is now category 3. There’s nothing out there to slow its growth. Storm surge is now forecasted to be 6-8 feet. Zones A, B, and C are under mandatory evacuation notice. Do not delay. This storm is dangerous. Get out now,” they said.

She quickly looked up her zone. Zone D, but so close to C that part of her backyard was actually in Zone C. Should they leave? Could their house flood? “No, it didn’t flood during the last cat 3 storm, it won’t flood now We’re fine,” her husband said. “God, should we leave?” she prayed again. Again she heard, “Leave” but this time a sense of panic accompanied it. That’s not God, she thought. God doesn’t panic. Besides, if that was really God, why wasn’t her husband getting the same message?

“Michael is approaching category 4. If you can evacuate, you should leave now. The storm surge can kill you. The winds will make catastrophic damage and might kill you,” they said.

“Are you leaving?” her daughter texted from two states away.

“No, we’re staying,” she texted back.

“ARE YOU CRAZY???”

“We’ll be fine. We’ll stay in the under-the-stairs closet when it gets bad. Our house is well built.”

“I’ll be a nervous wreck all day,” her daughter texted back. “Be safe!”

“Are you leaving?” her siblings wanted to know.

“No, we’re staying. We’re not in a flood zone and besides, who would take us in with our 3 small not-housebroken dogs, a larger senior dog who can’t get around well, a grown son with stitches in his leg and his large dog who eats smaller dogs.”

“We’ll take you in,” her brother immediately texted back.

She went to talk to her husband. “Should we leave?” They prayed together, but neither got an answer. Why isn’t God answering us? She couldn’t understand. “God why don’t You answer when we really need to hear from you?”

“We’ll stay,” her husband said. “We’ll be OK.”

She felt at peace about that decision. Peace is of God, she thought, so maybe that’s His answer. She was more relieved than apprehensive because she really didn’t want to leave. Also, once they left town, it might be days if not weeks before the roads were cleared and opened for them to be able to return.

She went to bed and fell asleep quickly but was jarred awake around 1 AM with the shrill alert sound on her phone. She got up and checked the forecast.

“It’s a strong category 4 and will probably be a 4 when it makes landfall. But there is a small chance it can increase to a 5 by landfall,” they said.

Ok, she thought. We might weather a 3 or even a weak 4. But a strong 4/5?? But we decided God said it was OK to stay. Did we get that wrong? Or was that just us because we want to stay?

“I’m leaving,” her son told them as he packed his electronics and dog. “Let me know what you decide.”

Her son leaving? He never panics! And he was so sure just a few hours earlier that staying home would be safer than being on the road with all those other evacuees. Should we go, she and her husband wondered. They prayed again together. Still no answer.

“God, I wish I could just hear your answer clearly. Only You know what will happen to our house.”

In spite of the peace they felt about staying, they decided to leave. They scurried around packing the most important things, not knowing if anything would be left when they returned. As she looked around her house, overwhelmed with the decision of what to take and what would be OK to lose, she ended up taking very little.

Tears streaming down her face, not wanting to leave, she drove north on the now empty road. Beside her were her smallest dog, some blankets and pillows, and her computer. Behind her was her husband with the other two small dogs and the larger senior dog, along with tubs and boxes of important papers, clothing, dog supplies, medicines, and other essential items. Before long the senior dog had a seizure, due to stress, they thought, and she was tempted to turn around. But she didn’t and several hours later they arrived at her brother’s house.

Several hours after that, Hurricane Michael slammed into her home town, with winds just two miles an hour under a Category 5 hurricane.

The following day, she read every Facebook post, watched every hurricane update, trying to get some news on the condition of her neighborhood, especially her home. Was it still standing? So many houses were not. The stress of not knowing was worse than finding out her house was gone, she thought. “God, is our house still standing?” she asked. Again, no answer. Why isn’t He talking to me, she wondered.

The day after that, someone posted a photo of the flood in her neighborhood. As she studied the photo, she stopped. What was that in the background?  She looked closer. It was her house! And it was still standing! Relief flooded her, replacing the stress that had just minutes before filled her. This photo was a gift from God, reminding her that God was always listening even when she couldn’t hear any answers.

Three days after the hurricane hit, she was able to return home. Her house was not only standing, but there was no severe damage and no flooding. If she had stayed, she’d have been fine. So maybe that peace was God’s answer all along, only we didn’t recognize it, she thought. Maybe by not answering, He was allowing us to make the choice, knowing we’d be safe no matter which choice we made.

Squeezing God Out

She was busy. Amazingly, she was even busier now than she had been before she retired.  And she was tired.

Something has to go, she finally thought. But what? Everything she did served a purpose and much of it actually helped other people.

She decided to make a list. Only, being as creative as she was, she did so through a drawing. She began by writing God in the center because, she thought, He is the center of my life. Then she wrote out all the things that kept her busy around God. As she drew, more things came to mind and she added those until they all began squeezing together and ended up squeezing God right out of the center.

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“Is that what I’m doing in my life?” she asked herself. “All the things I’m involved in is squeezing God right out of my life? No wonder I’m so tired. I’m trying to do all this in my own power. It’s time to prioritize! And get rid of things, though good, are not what God has called me to do!”

So she began eliminating one thing at a time. It wasn’t easy, nor is she finished. But God is back where He belongs. And that’s what counts.

Could Satan Really Do That?

“I need you. Come right over. Now!”

She hung up the phone, trembling as she looked over at the little boy standing in front of her. He seemed calmer than she felt even though he was the one who was hurt. She held his arm over his head as she waited for her friend to arrive. How could this have happened? One minute the eight year old had been running around the yard and climbing everything he could. The next, he had been dangling by one arm from an abandoned swing set frame. When she got him down, she saw that, as he had gripped the top of the frame with his upper arm to keep from falling, a large screw she didn’t know was up there had ripped a deep slash into his armpit. She could see layers of skin and tissue and other things she couldn’t identify and was surprised that there was very little blood.

The next few hours were spent trying to reach his foster mother, and praying in the clinic’s waiting room as doctors and nurses worked on his underarm.

Struggling with guilt, she tried to figure out why he had gotten hurt in the first place. In the two years she had been babysitting kids in her home, no one had ever gotten hurt. She took good care of them. She never left them unsupervised. She removed anything she thought could cause injury. And she maintained order and discipline, not allowing any wild or crazy behavior.

And yet, in the past month or so three boys had gotten hurt in seemingly random bizarre ways.

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Not finding any physical explanations for the sudden injuries, she looked to the spiritual. Did her recent spiritual growth have anything to do with the physical things happening around her? She knew the Bible said that Satan went around like a lion looking for who he could devour. She knew he would try to attack her to keep her faith from getting any stronger, but her kids? Would Satan really do that? Could he do that? Kids getting hurt was not acceptable.

 

“God,” she prayed. “Is it Satan? Does he have the authority and power to hurt people around me because of my spiritual activity?”

“What happened to Job?” she seemed to hear Him say.

“Satan was allowed to harm him in order to test his faith.”

“Did Satan harm anyone else?”

“Well, yes. His family was killed. Wow. I guess Satan CAN attack others because of me. But I don’t like it.”

“Job didn’t either. What did Job do about it?”

“Complain. Feel sorry for himself.”

“Did he lose faith?”

“No, I don’t think he did. He questioned a lot though.”

“Just like you’re doing?”

“Good point.”

What happened at the end?”

“You restored him. He was better off.”

“Why?”

“Hmmm… I guess because You were with him? And You have ultimate control?”

“Yes. Just as I do in all this. The boys are not permanently harmed. You did nothing wrong and the families don’t blame you. The question remains, what are you going to do? Back off spiritually to keep Satan from attacking again?”

“Nnnoooo… I don’t think that would be right. I shouldn’t let Satan control me like that. I guess I will keep working on growing my faith – but I AM going to get more serious about praying for the kids. And learn more about spiritual warfare.”

She did, and for the next two years that she babysat, no one else got hurt.

So what’s amazing about story?

Maybe how much the spiritual realm can manifest in the physical?

Maybe how answers for even something like this can be found in the Bible?

Maybe that Satan is real and constantly seeks to cause harm to God’s people in whatever ways he can, including physically?

Maybe that life – even spiritual life – is not always fair?

I don’t know. What do you think?