Exhausted?

Exhausted?

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Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

The Creator of the end of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

And to he who has no might, he increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,

And young men shall fall exhausted;

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles;

They shall run and not be weary;

They shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Amusement Park: Helicopter Ride

Amusement Park: Helicopter ride

“Ready to go higher?” Jesus asked.

“Higher? If we go any higher we’re going to…” Amalia froze. He didn’t really mean that, did He? This was supposed to be a restful ride, nothing scary. She stared at Him, unable to voice her fear. 0614202137 (2)

His eyes twinkled back at her. “Yup. And you’ll love it. So do you want to go higher with Me?”

Nodding slowly, she knew she’d go anywhere Jesus wanted to take her. She wasn’t sure if He meant the same thing she feared, but just in case, she held on tighter. If this helicopter broke free and went off into space, she wanted to be ready.

The small helicopter thus far had been moving in a slow, mechanical way. Although she controlled the up and down movements, the long metal bar to which it was attached kept it from going too high or too low as it revolved around a center column. It kept her safe from dangerous extremes. Now Jesus spoke of going higher. Heart beating faster, she waited to see what He meant.

He took the controls, and they began climbing.

At first nothing seemed to change.. She looked at Jesus and waited. When was He going to do His thing? Something totally unexpected and crazy and marvelous? But they just kept rising and revolving as they had been doing since they got on this ride. Should she ask Him about it? Or should she keep quiet? Maybe He’d forget and they could just finish the ride in a safe and ordinary way.

A few minutes passed. They were still rising.

She looked at Him again. The smile on His face was bigger, brighter, and more joyous than she had ever seen. Not just His smile – his whole body seemed to be brighter, reflecting the light that streamed down on Him.

No, not just on Him, on both of them.

Wait… the light was not streaming down on Him. It was streaming out from Him. He was the source of the light, which was growing more brilliant by the minute.

She was about to say something, but he stopped her.

“Shhh. Just take it in.” He whispered.

She sat back, noting that they were still rising, and let her eyes wander as she focused on the light’s sensation. The warmth she expected. But there was something else about it, something she couldn’t quite identify. Something good. Like she was being hugged from the inside out with the longest, most passionate hug she’d ever experienced. Tears filled her eyes as she surrendered to the embrace.

Too soon, she heard Jesus whisper. “Amy, Me beloved, look down.”

She did, and gasped. The amusement park looked the size of a flea circus.

“We’re so high! How…?” She shook her head. She didn’t’ need an explanation. Jesus had done His thing.

“This is how great My love for you is. And even greater. When you go through rough times, remember what you’ve experienced today. My love will be just as great then as it is now.”

The love, still flowing through her as she stared at the tiny rides below, filled her so completely that all she could do was nod. Slowly, as they descended, the light’s brilliancy dimmed to ordinary light. Disappointed, she tried to hang on to the inner embrace, but that feeling was also slowly fading away. By the time they joined the other helicopters, still revolving around the center column, it was all but a memory. A memory she was going to hang on to as long as she could.

 


 

Has anyone else experienced the loving embrace of God? What was it like for you?

 

Scriptures:

Psalm 103:11  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

Psalm 46:10  “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!”

1 John 4:16  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John 8:12 (I Am the Light of the World) Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

Messy Threads

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As I looked at the wing I just finished stitching, I saw the messy threads and knew I wouldn’t be able to use it like that. It would mar the beauty of the angel bear I was working on.  It also made me think of times when my life felt just as messy.

 

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This kind of mess required something that could cut threads without damaging the wing. And I knew just the right tool – my embroidery scissors with the curved tip. But that tool had to be used correctly.

 

 

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After a while, I was tired and wanted to stop. So many threads had been cut, but there were still many left. The wing was looking better than before, and I was tempted to let it go, but I knew the job wasn’t finished. So I continued.

 

 

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Finished, and beautiful! Now I could use it for the purpose I made it for. I am always amazed at the how much better the wings look once the threads are removed.

 

That’ when we need to get out God’s scissors and start clipping. If we allow Him to help, and not stop once we start feeling better, we will be amazed at how much better we will be able to do what He created us to do. And we will see beauty where once there was just a mess.

 

Is your life a mess? Don’t get discouraged. Get clipping!

 

Heb 12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

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

 

 

Amusement Park: Swinging Box

Amusement Park: Swinging Box

“How about that ride?” Jesus pointed to a box hanging by four poles from a horizontal bar.  “I love riding this one!”

Amalia agreed, and they climbed in. “This swing is supposed to be able to go all the way around, right?”

“Yes, if you keep working at it.”

“I’m ready.”

Amalia waited. But nothing happened. No motor came on to move them. The box remained stationary.

“Is this ride broken? Why isn’t it swinging?”

“It’s waiting for you.”

“For me? What do I have to do? I’m already inside, standing up, holding on to the wall handles. I’m ready. So why doesn’t someone push the button to get this ride moving?” She leaned out the window. “Hey, anybody out there?”

“Amalia, You have to get it moving.”

“How do I do that?” She studied the walls, ceiling, and floor. “There are no buttons in here either.”

“The power comes from your body. You have to move, and then the box will move.”

“Oh, okay, if I have to.” She began hopping, jumping from foot to foot. The box jiggled, 0605202043 (2)but didn’t start swinging. She jumped harder, willing the box to swing, but it only jiggled more violently. “Come on, box! Why are you just jiggling? Start swinging!”  Frustrated at the lack of desired response, she looked at Jesus. He was laughing.

 

“Why are You laughing?”

“I’m laughing at the confusion this box must have, being jumped on like that. It’s reacting exactly as it should to what you are doing.”

“What do you mean? I’m trying as hard as I can to get it to swing, but it just bounces!”

“I know. But have you noticed that when you jump up and down, the box does the same?”

“How else am I supposed to get it to move?” Amalia frowned. “Besides, I like jumping.”

“Think about how a swing works. Specific movements are required. Any other movements won’t result in the swing moving in the direction it was made to move. You know, it’s kind of like when you do acts of service for people. You have to fit your actions to what they need. If you do only what you like or want, you won’t get worthwhile results.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you help people, you want to make their lives a little better, right? You want to bring them some happiness, share some love, or meet a need they have. But what if you only did what you wanted? What if someone needed their yard mowed, but you only liked to give food. If you went to them with food, they wouldn’t be very appreciative. They might be confused, or maybe even hurt that you weren’t really thinking about them.”

“Okay, I think I get it. “ She imagined sitting on a swing, and focused on which movements the swing needed her body to make into order to move. “Oh, I have to shift my weight frontwards and backwards.”

Amalia rocked back and forth. The box began to swing slightly. “It’s working!”

“Great! Keep going!”

After a while, sweaty from the effort, Amalia stopped moving. “Jesus, this is too hard. I’ve done my best, but I can only get halfway up. Can You help me?”

“I thought you’d never ask!”

He threw His weight with hers, and the box quickly climbed higher with each swing. Soon the momentum of the box’s movements added to their effort, and Amalia found that she didn’t have to work as hard at it as she had at the beginning.

“This is fantastic!” Amalia laughed aloud.

With Jesus grinning by her side, they continued shifting their weight, and the box climbed even higher. Higher and higher and higher, until they were directly above the horizontal bar. They lingered there just a moment, before swinging back down, and up the other side until they were above the horizontal bar again.

Amalia marveled. To be suspended up in the air like that had to be one of the most fascinating experiences she’s ever had.

And then it got better. On the next swing up, instead of lingering at the top, it kept moving. It continued down the back, then up and over again, making complete circles around the horizontal bar.

Amalia couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. “More! More!”

“That’s enough for now. Your body isn’t ready to maintain this for long. You need to take time to rest.”

Disappointed as the box slowly settled to a gentle swing, and then to a stop, Amalia realized her body was indeed spent. Jesus was right. She did need a rest.

And then, she reassured herself, she would get Him to take her up on this ride again.

 

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

How do you know what people need?

All comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated!

 

Scriptures:

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

Galatians 6:9-10 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Romans 12:10-11 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Mark 6:30-31a The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest for a while.

Dear Little Weed Puller (From Someone Who Loves You Series)

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Dear Little Weed Puller,

Look at you, so focused on pulling those weeds. You are not overwhelmed with the large number of weeds around you. You are not worried that the job is too big for you. You are not frustrated because they are delaying your walk. You saw a need, and you stopped to take care of it, secure in the knowledge that I was there watching over you. You didn’t know, but you brought a delightful smile to my heart. And for that, I thank you.

As Always,

Someone Who Loves You

 

Gal 6:10  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

 

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

Amusement Park: Bumper Cars

Amusement Park: Bumper Cars

Amalia knew where she wanted to go next. The one ride she would have some control. She wanted to have her hands on the steering wheel for a change, instead of be driven by something she couldn’t see. Jesus agreed to give her that chance, and they made their way to the bumper cars.

“Hey, this is new.” Amalia pointed to a sign. “This ride has a prize. First one to it gets it. This is going to be even more fun than I thought.”

She picked out a red car, her favorite color, and climbed in. Jesus stood by the entrance gate.

“Jesus, aren’t You coming?”

“I thought you wanted to be in control.”

“I do, but I still want You with me. Please, come ride this with me.”

She smiled as He climbed in next to her. Seat belts fastened, foot on the pedal, and hands on the steering wheel, Amalia studied the arena. Cars were lined up all along the edges. As soon as the power was turned on, she knew they would all be heading for the prize, taking the shortest route possible. That meant they would all be heading across the center.

“Jesus,” she whispered, “I have a plan. If I can avoid the center, I can get past the massive gridlock the other cars will make in the center by going around the perimeter, and get to the prize first.”

“You think that will work?” He whispered back. “What if they all have the same idea?”

“I doubt it, but to make sure, I’ll wait a few minutes before starting off.”

“Okay, let’s see what happens.”

Sure enough, as soon as the power was on, fifteen cars headed for the center. A few other cars seem to be having trouble moving, or had the same idea as Amalia.

“See? I told You! Now watch as I sneak around and grab the prize.”

Amalia maneuvered the car slowly around the edge, only moving towards the center when going around cars still parked along the wall. As she passed them, she noticed that they were actually empty. No wonder they had not moved – easy obstacles to avoid.

As she turned the last corner, she saw victory right before her. Excited, she stepped on the peddle, and turned to Jesus, “See? My plan wor…”

BAM!

Thrown forward, Amalia jerked herself off the steering wheel.  0604202136 (2)

“Hey! I was here first!”

“So what? I’m here now!”

“Move out of my way!”

“You move!”

While Amalia argued with the driver of the brown car, a yellow car shot past them towards the prize.

“Hey!” Amalia threw her car in reverse, backed up as fast as she could, then took off full speed after the yellow car. “Oh, no you don’t!”

The yellow car came to a sudden halt as it crashed into a green car. Amalia whooped and rushed past both. Waving at the drivers furiously trying to untangle their cars, Amalia turned to Jesus. “This is fun! I can feel the prize in my hands already!”

“You think so? You might want…”

Amalia hit the steering wheel again as a pink car slammed into her from behind. Frowning, she turned slightly away from the prize to go around a stationary car, only to find her way blocked by purple car. Turned even further towards the center, Amalia grew frustrated. The prize was so close, and now she was being forced to move in a different direction. No longer confident she would get to the prize first, and not even remembering that Jesus was in the car with her, she began bumping into any car in her way, hoping the impact would remove them from her path. But it just made things worse.

“Turn to the left.”

The whisper was so quiet, she wasn’t sure she had heard it correctly. Turn left? But that would take her even further from the prize. It didn’t make sense. She decided to ignore it as she saw a way opening up to her right. Rushing towards it, she got there just as the brown car did. As the pink car crashed into her again, she was pushed into the brown car. A green car swooped up on her right at the same time as a blue car did the same on her left. She was blocked on all sides! Maybe turning right had not been the best decision. Maybe she should have listened to that whisper.

It took a few minutes for the cars to untangle, and then Amalia was free again. She looked around to orient herself. The prize was now behind her. Frowning, she watched the movement of the other cars for a moment. A few seemed to be heading towards the prize, but most were heading in other directions. That was a relief. She wasn’t competing against everyone. But the ones she was competing against were closer to the prize than she was. Time for a new strategy.

As she moved slowly along her newly planned route, things seemed to be working out just as she had hoped. She was closing in on the prize, and as the yellow car moved off to its right, the path opened and she had a straight shot towards the prize.

“Turn to the right.”

That whisper again. But why right? There was nothing in her way so turning aside made no sense. She decided to ignore it again, and floored the pedal under her foot.

Crash! A red car came careening around the yellow car and ran solidly into her left side. Amalia straightened up, yelled at the driver, and then tried to go forward only to be stopped by two cars bumping into each other right in front of her. She would have to back up again.

Totally frustrated, yet not willing to give up, Amalia backed only as far as she had to before turning to the right. Turn to the right? Isn’t that what the voice has whispered? Maybe she should have listened.

“Wait.”

The whisper yet again. This time Amalia decided to obey. What did she have to lose? None of her plans had worked out. She watched the other drivers disentangle and start off again, only to have new cars create another gridlock.

“Go right.”

She stepped on the pedal and turned right even though it looked like she was heading right into path of an oncoming orange car. Closing her eyes, she kept going, anticipating a crash, but trusting the whisper. Nothing. No crash. Not even a bump. Amalia opened her eyes. The orange car had turned off, and there was now only one thing in front of Amalia. And it wasn’t a car. The prize dangled from a rope an arm’s length away. Amalia quickly swooped in and grabbed it.

“I got it! I got it!”

She held it to her chest and looked around. No one was watching. No one seemed to care. Except maybe the driver of the brown car. But he looked like he had something in his arms too, and he was grinning from ear to ear. Then she remembered Jesus.

“I got it, Jesus!”

“I see.”

“But I’m a little confused. My plans – the ones that made sense – weren’t working out, but when I listened to the whisper, even though it didn’t make sense, I won.

“Yeah, about that. Your plans don’t always work out because you have limited sight, and can only see in the present. I see the whole picture, and I know the future. So I always know the best way to get anywhere.”

“That was You?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t I recognize Your voice?”

“You were too busy focusing on your own plans.”

“Then why didn’t You speak louder?”

“I didn’t need to. You heard Me. Either you were going to listen, or not. Speaking louder wouldn’t have changed that.”

Amalia’s face turned red. “’I’m sorry. I didn’t listen at first, and I even forgot You were with me.”

“I forgive you. You listened in the end, and that’s what counts.”

As they climbed out of the car, Amalia remembered something else. “What about that guy in the brown car? Why does he look so happy? He acts like he won.”

“He did. You both did. The prize is like heaven, and the rope is like Me. I hold out the prize to all who want it badly enough to go for it, and to persevere when things get crazy. There are others here who won also.”

Amalia danced to the exit, holding her prize in one hand, and Jesus’ hand in her other. This ride had not worked out like she expected. It had worked out even better.

 

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Does anyone besides me have a life that feels like a bumper car ride?

 

 

Scriptures:

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

Proverbs 12:15  The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 14:12 (also Proverbs 16:25) There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

Philippians 3:15  I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Amusement Park: Train Ride

Amusement Park: Train Ride

The sudden DING-DING-DINGs of an approaching train caused Amalia to pause in licking off the last of the sweet sticky residue from the now empty cotton candy cone. A train ride! The perfect thing after a sweet treat. She turned to Jesus, who was watching her with amusement.

“Let’s go ride the train next!” she said, pointing towards the train station about fifty yards away. “I wonder how far it goes.”

“I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Train rides can be very… interesting.”

Amalia raised her eyebrows at Jesus. “Do You know something I don’t?”

“I know a lot of things that you don’t” He laughed. “In this case, let’s just get on and see what happens.”

They walked the short distance and got to the station just as the train pulled in. They climbed into the last car, the one that usually provides the greatest view, and buckled in.

“Why the seat belt?” Amalia said as she heard the click of the secured belt. “This is a slow, easy ride. We don’t need seat belts for that.”

“It’s always good to be prepared,” was all Jesus said.

The train started off, blasting it’s warning horn as it left the station. There weren’t many people on the train, so Amalia had a great view of the amusement park as they passed several rides. Then they went through a gate, and everything changed.

Amalia was speechless. She had seen this done on TV but never in real life. How was this 0601201504 (2)even possible? It was like looking at a black and white movie. All the color was gone. Even the sunlight. Everything was dark and dingy. The trees, grass, flowers, clouds – even the train and everything on it that she could see, including herself, were shades of blacks and grays. She turned to Jesus, and was startled to see that He was still the bright, colorful Jesus He had always been.

“What happened?”

“Watch. This is one of my favorite rides.”

Confused, she watched the dreary landscape with dismay. There nothing beautiful here, but there was potential. She could see the many flowers and imagine how colorful they could be.

Suddenly everything went dark as they entered a tunnel. Amalia reached for Jesus’ hand. She felt a little foolish, because she knew He was there, but His quick reassuring squeeze comforted her. In just a few minutes they exited the tunnel into the dark world. But wait, was it her imagination? Or did it seem a bit brighter on this side of the tunnel? She continued watching.

Yes! She was right – it was getting brighter. She could just barely make out the first hint of a color other than gray. The sky was now gray-blue. Compared to a few minutes ago, it looked beautiful. She gazed at it with joy, then noticed the leaves, flowers, and grass were beginning to show some color. It was very faint, but it was definitely there.

“Do you see that, Jesus? Look how pretty everything is getting now that the color is returning? There’s not much, yet, but I know more will come.”

“So, are you seeing past what things look like right now, and looking instead to what they can be?”

“No, I’m seeing them as they are, not as they were. But I’m also anticipating what they can be.”

“Well said. Keep watching.”

The train went around a curve, and now Amalia could now easily see different colors. Most of the gray had been replaced with soft colors. She looked all around with wonder. If a hint of color was beautiful, this was spectacular! She enjoyed looking for as many colors as she could, which wasn’t easy since their light shades tended to blend into each other. She was so busy counting off the colors, that she didn’t notice the overhanging trees until they were underneath them. Then all she could see were branches and leaves. It was like being buried, in a way.

A few mintues later, they emerged into the sunshine. Sunshine? Yes, the sky appeared much brighter now, and the light brought out more colors throughout the landscape. Amalia sat back, stunned at the difference the light made.

As the train continued along its track, weaving between forests and fields, the landscape continued to grow brighter with each curve, until it was so bright everything seemed to glow as if each was lit from within. Unbidden tears fell as Amalia turned to Jesus.

“This is incredible. I can’t take it all in, it’s too beautiful.”

“This is how I see you,” He whispered as He held her close. “You were once dark, like the dreary landscape we started in. But as you traveled with me along the path I set for you, you were transformed by My light into one level of beauty to the next. Just as you delighted in each stage of the landscape’s transformation, I delight in each level you become. And you’re not finished yet. The best is yet to come.”

Amalia had no more words. She let His words soak into her as the train pulled up to the station. This ride had been incredible. More incredible than any other ride so far. Jesus had said it was His favorite. She thought maybe it had become her favorite, too.

 

 


What do you think of this Amusement Park series? Should Amalia and Jesus continue to ride? Or should I move on to something else? Please leave me a comment below. Thanks!

 

Scripture

2 Cor 3:17-18  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is Spirit.

Amusement Park: Water Ride

Amusement Park: Water Ride

It felt good to be back in the sunshine. Real sunshine, not the harsh artificial lights of the game booths. The air was clean and warm and full of life. Amalia and Jesus walked down the dirt path looking at the various rides she hadn’t been on yet. Suddenly, Jesus pointed.

“That one! It’s what you need right now.”

Amalia looked at the high ride. Another roller coaster?

“Um… I don’t think I’m ready for this one.”

“Don’t worry. It’s not near as high as the roller coaster we went on, nor is it the same. This one has a different focus.”

Letting Jesus lead her, they climbed up the stairs leading to the train cars. Only there weren’t any trains. There were just individual cars, each a different color, lined up waiting for their turns to carry passengers.

Jesus helped Amalia into the first car. “You’re going to love this!”

“If You say so,” Amalia said, eyebrows raised. “I’ll let you know when we get to the end.”

As the car started moving, Amalia checked her seat belt to make sure it was securely buckled, ignoring the humorous look Jesus gave her. Better to be safe than sorry.

The climb up was steep, but not nearly at high. When they got to the top, she sat back, relieved at the gentle downward slope on the other side. Jesus was right. This was not like that horrifying roller coaster. It was much more like a kiddie roller coaster. No death drops here.

She was enjoying the view as they moved steadily along the track, when she felt something wet on her face. Rain? No, not possible. Not on a day this sunny. Looking around, she noticed everything was wet and shiny from the mist in the air. Where was that mist coming from? Within minutes she found out.  A large waterfall rose up directly in front of them, and there was no way around it. They were going to get wet!

“Don’t worry so much, Amalia. This is just a thin waterfall. You’re just going to get sprinkled.”

He was right, as usual. The car moved too quickly through that falling water to drench them. The cool water droplets that fell on her head refreshed her mind seeping all the way down into her heart, and she felt more free than she had since coming out of that game booth area. She hadn’t realized how much hold those games, especially those stars, had had on her mind. Now all desire for them was gone.

“Will there be another waterfall? That one was awesome!”

“No, this one is enough. For now.”

Now fully relaxed, Amalia settled back in her seat. The car continued to follow the track as it went up and down gentle inclines, and around several curves.

“I love this ride,” she told Jesus. “You always know just what I need.”

“I hope you feel the same way when we…”

“Jesus! Where’s the track?” Amalia interrupted, leaning forward. “The track… it’s gone!” She stared at the spot where the track disappeared right into the sky.

“It’s still there. Once we get to the top, you’ll see it.”

Now Amalia noticed the steady rise they had been making. “You mean there is a drop?” She gripped the handlebar tighter. At least this time she was getting a warning.

Then they were over the top and flying almost straight down. Only this time, not only was the drop was much shorter, it ended in a pool of beautiful blue water. Almost before 0531202030 (2)she had time to think about it, the car hit the pool, and water drenched her. Amalia laughed as the car slowed down and floated through the pool. If the sprinkling she had gotten earlier was refreshing, this was absolutely exuberating. She felt so alive, so energized, so… clean!

“Wow, Jesus! This is amazing! Thank You for bringing on this ride!”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it.” He winked at her. “And I’m glad you don’t smell like the game booths anymore.”

 

 

When was the last time you had a spiritual bath?

 

Scripture:

Hebrews 10:21-22  and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

 

Amusement Park: Game Booths

Amusement Park: Game Booths

Legs still shaky from the roller coaster they had just exited, and not ready to chance another ride, Amalia asked Jesus if they could walk around for a little bit.

“Sounds like a great idea. I love watching people.”

Although there weren’t too many people, Amalia had to agree it was fun watching the ones that were there. Smiling couples, excited children, chatting seniors – everyone seemed to be happy to be there. The sun was bright and warm, filling the area with a sense of peace that could almost be touched. Amalia held Jesus’ hand and delighted in the pleasant fragrances of flowers and popcorn that drifted past her in the breeze.

Then they went turned a corner.

Things were different on this side. Gone were the peace and joy and light that Amalia had been enjoying. An ominous cloud seemed to hover over the various booths that lined the path, putting everything in its shadow. The booth attendees compensated by using a variety of artificial light sources. Amalia sniffed. What was that odor? It wasn’t very strong, but definitely unpleasant. However, she forgot about it as soon as she saw the first booth. A lady, dressed in a flowing purple and black robe, and wearing a matching turban, beckoned to Amalia.

“Come, let me tell you of your wondrous future! Would you like your palm read? Or would you prefer to gaze into my crystal ball?”

That sounded intriguing. Who doesn’t want to know their future? She started towards the lady, but Jesus held her back.

“No, Amalia. I hold your future. And I will reveal what is good for you to know. Don’t seek that knowledge from anyone else.”

“I know, Jesus. And I don’t believe she is for real. But what harm is there in playing along? It sounds fun.”

Before He could answer, her attention was drawn to the next booth filled with stars. Pinned on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, and piled on the counter, stars were everywhere. Even the man behind the counter was covered in stars. She loved stars!

“Come right over here, young lady! Come see the heavenly beings that are all around! Forget your future – think of your present! These stars have great power, and can do wondrous things for you.  Have a problem? There’s a star for that! Need more money? There’s a star for that! There are stars for protection, for finding lost things, for bringing you peace. Aren’t they beautiful? They would look great displayed in your home. And you can even share them with your friends. Come, let me find just the right stars for your needs.”

“Look, Jesus! Aren’t these stars glorious?”0530201531 (3)

“You don’t need any.”

“But they are real, right? I mean, I can see the stars in the sky at night, so I know they are real.”

“Stars do dwell in the heavens, but they don’t do what this guy is claiming. Don’t look to them for your needs. Look to Me. I am all that you need.”

Amalia nodded, took a few steps, and then stopped. Maybe she shouldn’t want any, but they sure were tempting.

“What if I took a few home just for decoration? That won’t hurt anything because I will still look to You. I just like looking at them.”

“Amalia, suppose you had a friend who got married. She loved her husband, but wanted to keep some pictures of other men she found attractive in her home. She would never do anything with these men because she was totally committed to her husband, but their photos pleased her eyes. How do you think her husband would react?”

“He’d hate those pictures. He’d want her to get rid of them.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Because he’d be jealous. He wouldn’t want share his home with other men. He’d want all of his wife’s affection. And it might hurt him to think she thought he wasn’t enough for her.”

“But they are just pictures.”

“It’s what they represent.”

“Just like the stars.”

Amalia got it. Just because something looked good didn’t make it good. And it made her feel good to know that Jesus loved her so much that He was jealous for her affection.

The passed the next booth, where a woman offered to contact Amalia’s “dearly departed loved ones” for her.

“Nope, keep walking.” Jesus said. “The only one who’s ever died that you’re allowed to contact is Me.”

“What’s wrong with hearing from someone else?”

“What do people seek from that communication?”

“A lot of people get comfort. Or maybe an answer to a question they have.” Amalia stopped. “Oh, I get where You’re going with this. It has to do with jealousy again, doesn’t it? You want us to go only to You for comfort and answers.”

“And, in this case, to protect you from things you can’t see.” He frowned at the woman. “Besides, most of the time, these people are just playing games. They get good at guessing, reading body language, and being vague enough to deceive you.”

The sound of guitar chords drew Amalia to the next booth. Several people were singing about God’s love. Hearts and flowers were displayed in tasteful ways throughout the booth. Amalia stopped. Finally a good, clean booth. One that Jesus would like, too.

“Hi, would you like to play?” asked the man with the guitar. “You can win some great joy and peace.”

Amalia nodded, but at the same time she noticed Jesus shaking His head. Confused, she turned to look at Him.

“What’s wrong with this booth? They are singing about God’s love. That’s good, isn’t it?”

Instead of answering her, Jesus addressed the man. “Who is God?”

“That depends, man, on who you want god to be. God takes many forms and has many names. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose. Come play our game – the grand prize is a free ride to paradise.”

Amalia shrunk back. Many gods? But their song had sounded so right, so beautiful.

Jesus smiled sadly at her. “Many people have been deceived. You have to look past the outside and see what’s at the core. Don’t let pleasant words deceive you also.”

They continued walking, passing booth after booth of people promising prizes – mighty wonders, or prosperity, or power to make you whatever you wanted to be – all with one catch: you had to pay to play. She tried to stop several times, but each time Jesus pulled her along with the words, “empty promises”. Finally she insisted on stopping at a plain booth where a sweet looking lady was reading the Bible.

“This one has to be okay, She’s reading a Bible!” Amalia told Jesus, and then greeted the woman.

The woman looked up, smiling at first, but then frowned. “If you want to play my game, you have to get rid of some things, like your earrings. And your colorful clothes. You’ll need to put on the ones I give you. Everything must be proper. We don’t want to displease God, do we?”

“But God likes colors…” Amalia began but was interrupted by the woman.

“We need to get rid of everything that might cause us to be prideful. See, it says here in the Bible that God opposes the prideful.”

“But…”

“And it says here,” she turned to another page, “not to be puffed up with pride.”

“But..”

“You do agree that these scriptures are in the Bible, and that the Bible is God’s Word, don’t you? So you have to obey them.”

“But there are many other scriptures. You have to read them all to get what God is saying. You can’t just take one or two out of context like that. When He said not to be prideful, He was talking about…” Again she was cut off.

“You can’t play my game if you don’t agree to follow my rules. And since my rules are from God’s Word, they are God’s rules. Anyone who chooses not to play my game is rebelling against God.” Her frown softened.  “I can see you love God. Come play my game, it’s the only one God approves.”

Amalia turned to Jesus. “Talk to her. Tell her the truth.”

“Come on, Amalia,” Jesus said, guiding her away. “Her mind is made up. She won’t listen to either of us.”

A few steps later, Amalia stopped again, shaking her head. “What is wrong with this place? I thought these games would be fun. But they’re not. And some of them are even scary.”

“Did you notice what they all had in common? They are all under a cloud of deception, so whether they meant to or not, deception was at the root of each. Once you walk under that cloud, it becomes easy to be deceived. And it’s not easy to walk away from it.”

“Unless we have You. You kept me safe from losing in those games. Why…?”

“Why don’t I do the same for everyone else? I try, but they aren’t listening like you are. And some, believe it or not, prefer the deception over the truth.”

“Well, I don’t want any part of deception. Let’s get out of here.”

This time when she started walking, she kept going.

 

What do you think is the greatest deception we face?

 

 

Scriptures:

Abominations (don’t do as the pagans)

Deut 18:10-14 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omen, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.

Lev 19:31 Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.

Rom 12:2 Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

Jealousy

Deut 4:24  For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Ex 34:14  (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

Is 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I will give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

James 4:4-5 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?”

 

Deceit

Col 2:8  See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Eph 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Col 2:18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,

Col 2:23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

2 Cor 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

2 Peter 2”1-3a But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.

 

Aroma of God

2 Cor 2:15-16a For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.  (Personal note: if Christians have an aroma, then couldn’t those in the enemy’s camp also have their own aroma? Thus the smell Amalia noticed when she entered the game area.)

Amusement Park: Roller Coaster

Amusement Park: Roller Coaster

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

“Jesus! Do something!”0528201352 (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What would you have done differently?”

“I could have prepared for it.”

“How?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, Jesus, let’s do this.”

 

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

 

Scriptures:

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

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

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

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

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