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, 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.

What Does Your Chair Look Like?

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“Look at the lounge chairs.”

She turned and looked.

“What do you see?”

She looked at the lounges. They were the usual blue lounges found at most pool sides. All were pointed towards the water. All were well used. All were empty. So?

“Look again.”

She took another look.  Although the chairs were all pointing in the same direction, they were not lined up in a perfect row, and the backs were all set at different angles. She frowned in concentration.

“What are they telling you?”

Hmmm… she thought. What would these chairs be telling me if I could hear them? That they were there to serve people? That they were enjoying the sun just as she was? That they were in the place they were supposed to be? That they were lined up casually and set at different angles?

She thought about how the angles would affect her line of vision.  If she sat in the chair with the back straight up, her eyes would look out over the pool. She would see the sparkling blue water and all the people who were in it. If she sat in the chair with the back all the way down, she would be able to see the brilliant white clouds as they slowly passed by and birds as they flew overhead. But she would no longer be able to see the water or the people. The other chairs, with backs set at different angles, would allow her to see varying amounts of both water and sky.

The chairs are like our faith, she mused. Sitting in one with the back straight up doesn’t take much faith. Our muscles could hold us upright comfortably even if the back of the chair should give way. But lying back, no longer using our own strength but trusting the chair to hold us up requires more faith.

And the amount of faith we practice affects what we focus on. With little faith, like sitting upright in a lounge chair, our view is limited on what we see around us. Our focus is on the physical world and all its troubles along with its beauty with little ability to see into the spiritual realm.  The more faith we practice, like the further back we recline, the more of the spiritual world we’ll be able to see. We can still see the physical world, but our focus becomes increasingly centered on God and His kingdom. We are better able to see things as God does. And lying fully back? That probably only happens when in the midst of fully worshipping God… or when we die, she thought wryly.

“So, what does your chair look like?”

She thought about that. She knew what she would have liked to have answered. But the truth was – her chair was constantly changing angles. And then, she knew. That was the whole point of this lesson. Her chair was not going to stay in one position, or even progress steadily to a flat position. And that was OK. The important thing was to ask herself, especially in times of stress, “What does your chair look like?”

Because her chair may need a little adjusting from time to time to get the best view.

Digging For Real Treasure

With all the broken shells lining the beach, she just knew this was the spot. She set her beach towel and bag on the sand way above the high tide mark, then took her net and img_20180604_222246027.jpgwalked into the water. Staring down at the shifting shells along the breaking waves, she watched for anything that was a darker shinier black than anything else.  She was determined to find a shark tooth before having to go home but she found the waves very distracting and frustrating as they kept blocking her view and making the shells move before she could catch any.

So she began scooping up random piles of shells and dumping them on the beach above the water’s reach. Then stooping, she spread out the pile with her hands searching through all the broken pieces for the telltale shiny black. After many such searches, she gave up. This was not getting her anywhere.

She went back to standing in the water and concentrated on what she could see, hoping to find that one big tooth she knew was there. Her entire attention was focused on the search. She tuned out the sun beating down on her. She turned out the birds calling to each other. She tuned out the people strolling by. She even tuned out the waves as she peered intently through the water. Eventually, worn out, she gave up and went back up on the beach.

Sitting down near the shells that lined the high tide mark,  she began digging. Maybe she would dig up a tooth that had washed up then gotten buried by the sand. Jack pot! Within a few minutes she found a small but beautiful tooth! Feeling satisfied that she wouldn’t be going home empty handed, she headed for her towel.

As she sat, resting before her long walk back to her car, she had a thought. Why can I ignore the waves and sun and other distractions while searching for something as trivial as a shark tooth, and yet not be able to ignore all the distractions that call me away from searching the Bible for a word from God?

I’m going to have to make some changes, she told herself. It’s time to dig for the real treasure.

The Museum – The Reveal

Spoiler alert:  If you want to try guessing the meaning behind my symbolic short story The Museum for yourself, please go there now before you continue reading.

Still here? Then here we go.

The museum represents Christianity. Each wall symbolizes a different denomination. The paintings featured on each wall represents a central focus of that denomination based on my observations when visiting different denominations over the years.

The first wall is Catholicism with their main focus on the Eucharist.

The second wall is Baptist with their main focus on the Bible.

The third wall is Assembly of God and Pentecostal with their enthusiastic worship services. The different languages spoken by the people gathered there represents their belief in tongues.

The fourth wall is the Seventh Day Adventist with their focus on following the laws, especially the Sabbath.

The fifth wall is nondenominational churches – the swirls representing the freedom from traditional denominational boundaries.

The groups of people in front of each painting are the ones that have been drawn to that particular denomination based on likes, dislikes, needs, as well as other factors. Just like people have different personalities, denominations also have different personalities. And when people find the one that fits them the best, the one that meets their needs the best, they stay there.

The people still walking around the room are Christians who are still searching for their church home, and non-Christians exploring Christianity.

 

How close was your guess?

I know some people won’t agree with me, but I believe, for the most part, that having different denominations is a good thing. I think it’s quite possible that God may be behind the formation of many of the denominations that exist today. There are reasons why I believe this, but I won’t get into that now.

I’m aware that having different denominations is confusing to non-Christians. But I believe that’s because of how we Christians have handled it. If we really respected each other, and didn’t try to steal each other’s members – but instead worked together to point non-Christians to Jesus, then helped them find their right fit regardless of whether it’s in our own denomination or not, I think we would be amazed at the result.

Just saying.

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