Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

Matthew 11:28-29  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I love these verses.

I loved them when I was taking full course loads each semester at a university and working in my spare time to pay for them.

 I loved them when my children were little and I was teaching full time, usually having to put in an hour or two of unpaid overtime each day.

I loved them when I went back to college to pursue my master’s degree while teaching full time, raising two around-teen-age children, and serving leadership roles in several Christian groups.

I loved them when problems piled on top of each other and I saw no way out.

I loved them when the stresses of life weighed down on me while I struggled with strong PMS symptoms each month.

There was just one problem.

They didn’t seem to work for me. Spending time with Jesus didn’t make my work load lessen and I never felt rested for more than a few minutes at a time. Peace, yes. But not rested.  I did make it through – if that counts – but just barely. So I did with this scripture what I did with others I didn’t understand. I filed it under “nice idea, but confusing”, and hoped someday God would explain what He really meant.

Many years went past.

Then today I came across it again. And this time I had a light bulb moment. He’s not talking about our daily life burdens, He’s talking about religious burdens. The kind that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were putting on the people. All the dos and don’ts and rituals and ceremonies. Making sure to follow all the rules was a heavy load to carry. It still is today, if that’s what we’re trying to do.

Jesus came to show us a better way. His focus was on restoring our relationship with the Father, not in adding rituals or ceremonies. He wanted to set us free from religion so that we could enjoy our relationship with our Father. Coming from a very religious upbringing, I can testify that these verses did and still do work exactly as He said.

How did I not see this before?  How could I have read these verses for over 40 years, and never “got it”? It makes me wonder how many other verses I’ve taken out of context over the years. Maybe it’s time to reread the New Testament, this time not skimming past the familiar verses I think I know, but really looking at them in context.

I bet I’ll find enough to write a book.

And maybe I’ll do just that.

I’m a Pom Pom (Romans 12)

(for those who don’t know… these are pom poms. The solid orange one is what it looks like before it’s trimmed. The others have been trimmed.)

Prologue:

Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us that while we still sinners, Christ died for us.

When I first met Jesus, I was like that solid orange pom pom. My heart and my life were a mess and falling apart. But just like the pom pom maker tied a string around the center of each pom pom to keep the strands of yarn together, Jesus tied Himself around the center of my heart, keeping me together.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

A pom pom is made to serve a purpose.

So was I.

And now Romans…

Verse 1:  I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

A pom pom is completely subject to its maker. It has no will of its own.

However, God created me with free will. Therefore He waits for me to present myself to Him as a living sacrifice. That means I give up my rights, my wants, my opinions, my stuff – and place myself completely in His hand.

Verse 2: Do not be conformed to the 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.

That messed up orange pom pom looks more like the skein of yarn it came from than a finished pom pom. In order to get it to a more pleasing and usable shape, much yarn has to be trimmed of.

I was no different. I looked, thought, and acted just like the world in which I came out of.  Those worldly ways needed to be trimmed in order to make me into a more pleasing and usable person for God.

Verse 3: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Once trimmed, the pom pom looks so incredibly better that it might be tempted to believe it has become the most beautiful of all pom poms. But that might just cause the others to raise their eyebrows at it. If you look closely in the picture, the pom poms each have some defects. Strands sticking out here or there, or misshapen in some places, none of them are perfect.

I, too, am soooo much better than I used to be, and if I’m not careful, I could start thinking I’m better than I really am, especially when I compare myself to people who haven’t been trimmed as much. I know I still have parts that need to be trimmed and rounded. Thinking soberly, or rationally, about myself, I know I am no better or worse than any other person.

Verse 4: For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function,

Some pom poms are made to be sewn on clothes, bags, or key chains. Others are made to be tossed around by a two-year old…

Likewise, I, being part of a body of many members, have a different function than the others. It might be similar to someone else’s but most like will not be identical.

Verse 5: so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Although there are many different pom poms, they are all part of the group their maker made.

I, along with all the other Christians, form one body, and as a member, I have a responsibility to the other members.

Verse 6: Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;

None of the pom poms were given exactly the same strands. Some have the same colors, but in different arrangements; some were given more unique colors; and one was given only one color. But all are as they were designed to be.

My spiritual gifts differ from gifts given to others in the body. And how I use those gifts also differ. One such gift given to me, a prophetic gift, is much different than what is generally thought of when thinking about a prophet. I don’t prophecy over others, nor do I predict the future. But I can see what God is doing, and hear what He is saying, when He reveals it to me. Instead of fretting that I don’t do what the other prophets are doing, I am learning to use my gift according to God’s grace and my faith. I am learning to accept and enjoy my uniqueness and the way I was designed.

Verse 7: if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;

I am also a teacher – over thirty years in the public school system, as well as many small group spiritual teachings over the years. But I found that my teaching style also often differed from my peers. Which was a good thing, because not every student learned the same way. (My dream/goal is to combine my gifts of prophecy and teaching and create prophetic teachings that God can use to impact His people.)

Verse 8: the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

I LOVE exhorters! However, I am not one. My husband is and sometimes it’s hard not to envy his gift. I know people with gifts of generosity, leadership, and mercy – none of which I have – and all for which I’m grateful for. They are all extremely important in the Kingdom.

Verse 9: Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Just as the pom poms are trimmed of parts that interfere with their purpose, so I am trimmed of what interferes with my relationship with God and His purpose for me. But sometimes I have to do the trimming myself. God teaches me what is good and what is evil. It’s my responsibility to trim away all evil as He reveals it, and keep the good.

Verse 10: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Imagine the pom poms chatting. Which set – A or B – do you think they would be saying to each other?

  1.  Aw, you are so pretty! I love your colors! You look so soft! Here, let me make room for you. You’re so awesome! You are looking better every day! I love how the yellow mixes with your white.
  • Hey, you look stupid with that little piece sticking out. Let me get fix it for you. Hmmm… feeling a little out of shape this morning? That’s too bad. Come back when you have better control over yourself. Pssst… did you see the white one today? Can’t believe it thinks it looks as good as us colorful ones.

God has recently revealed to me that I need to be more like those pom poms in set A. Instead of focusing on someone’s imperfections or differences, I need to see what He sees – a perfect pom pom in the making. This is way harder than it sounds, but also so much more important than I realize sometimes.

Verse 11: Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Pom poms are all they are made to be. A bunch of yarn tied together and shaped into a ball. Pom poms just sit, until a force acts on them.

I am so much more than a bunch of cells shaped into a human, waiting for something to move me. With God’s Spirit indwelling me, my spirit is alive and in love with my Maker, and as long as I stay focused on Him, He motivates and enables me to remain fervent in serving Him.

Verse 12: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

A pom pom can’t rejoice, be patient, or pray. But I can. I can rejoice in the hope of continual improvements. I can patiently endure the trimming process, like a pom pom submitting to the hands of its maker. And I can pray throughout every day – for myself as well as for others as they go through their own trimming experiences.

Verse 13: Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

I want to do this. I think about doing this. But I end up not doing anything sometimes. I’m glad so many people are so much better at this than I am, but that’s no excuse for me not to. I have my place in the body, and need to help support the rest of the body whenever and however I can.

Epilogue:

Philippians 1:6  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

One day, I will be a perfect pom pom – softly round and perfectly trimmed. But most likely not before I get to heaven. In the meantime, I’m content to be in the hand of my Maker, trimming away the parts I can, and allowing Him to trim the rest.

How about you?

Amusement Park: Swinging Boat

Amusement Park: Swinging Boat

“Where do you want to sit,” Jesus asked Amalia.

“It doesn’t matter,” Amalia responded with a huge smile. “We’re on the boat. That’s all I care about.”

Jesus smiled back. “Just being on the boat might be enough for some. But I know you. Once we get moving, you’re going to start comparing. So you may as well do that now.”

Amalia looked at the rows of seats. Half were on her right, the other half were on her left. Both sides were facing each other. It looked like they would all get the same ride, swinging both frontwards and backwards. So what did Jesus mean about comparing them?

She imagined sitting in the first row on her right. She pictured the boat swinging forward as high as it could go, and where she would be at its greatest height. Then she pictured how high the last row would go. And she understood. That first row would not rise near as high in the sky as that last row. If she chose the first row, she would not experience as much of the swing as she would if she sat on the last row.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” she asked Jesus. “By choosing where I sit, I can control how much of the swing I experience.”

“Exactly. So, where do you want to sit?”

“I want to experience this ride to its fullest. I choose the back row!”

“I was hoping you would say that. Come on.”

Jesus led her past all the seats on the right side until they got to the last row. “Here you go. This is going to be great!”

Amalia’s anticipation increased as the boat began filling with people. Finally, the ride attendee announced the boat was full, and closed the gate with a clang. He pushed a button, and the boat began its first swing.

At first the swings were small, and Amalia could barely feel the gentle rise and fall. But the swings grew stronger and rose higher on every pass. Soon Amalia felt the need to hold on as her seat became perpendicular to the ground. The only thing keeping her from falling was her seatbelt.

It was exhilarating! The delicious anticipation as she climbed higher, the momentary lull at the very top, and then the stomach-dropping fall made this ride all that she hoped it would be. She laughed as she rose, and screamed in delightful fear at each free fall, knowing she was safe with Jesus.

After several swings, she noticed a difference. Being able to see the top of the rise, or the bottom of the fall, when she was moving forward made the gut-wrenching thrill easier to handle than when she rose or fell backwards. Not being able to see where she was going made it harder to tell when the rise would turn into a fall, or when a fall was finally over and she began to rise again. So even though she knew that she was secure in the boat, and that no fall would last indefinitely, she preferred the thrill of seeing over the alarm of not seeing.

“Just like when you’re walking with Me,” came the familiar soft whisper in her heart. “You love when you can see where you’re going, both when things are going well and you’re heading for great heights, as well as when things fall apart and you can see how much longer before you rise again. But you’re not so fond of experiencing the same things without the help of your sight. Being able to see the WHEN makes the WHAT easier. If you only faced one direction, you wouldn’t get the whole experience.  Just as this boat ride includes ups and downs in both directions, regardless of the seat you choose, your life also includes ups and downs with and without sight. Both the seeing and the not seeing builds your trust in different ways, making your faith complete in a way not possible with just one. And just as you are secure with Me on this boat, you are secure with Me in your life. Once you understand that, you can enjoy the walk with Me no matter which way you’re facing.”

Amanda nodded. This ride was turning out to be one of her favorites. But would it be if she didn’t have Jesus by her side? If she didn’t know He was keeping her safe through every move, both on this ride and in her life?

She was glad she would never have to find out.


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.

Philippians 4:11-12 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound, in any and every circumstance. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Two Sides

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

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

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

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

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

Many things have two sides, both equally important.

So does our God Most High.

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

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

He is God.

He is not a god.

He is the LORD God Most High.

We did not create God.

His character is not open for debate.

Liking or not liking His traits does not negate them.

Understanding or not understanding Him does not change Him.

He is who He is.

He is God.

Focusing on only one side leaves you shortsighted.

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

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

To know God you have to know both sides.

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

The truth is…

God Most High is both loving and jealous.

God Most High is both merciful and wrathful.

God Most High is both forgiving and holy.

God Most High is both faithful and vengeful.

The side you see depends on where you stand.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amusement Park: Waiting on Jesus

Amusement Park: Waiting on Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

A married couple with three children walked up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Scriptures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

You Know You Can Take Off Your Coat, Right?

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You know you can take off your coat, right?

 

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

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

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

“Yes, they do look good, but…”

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

“I can see that. But…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But the sun…”

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

“But I’m not wearing…”

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

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

 


 

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

Carlynne – “she who has freedom”

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

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

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

Amusement Park: The Hat, part 2

Amusement Park: The Hat, part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are we?” Amalia asked Jesus.

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

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

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

“And what am I seeing?”

“Keep looking.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will at the right time.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How do I do that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then the unthinkable happened. They stopped.

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

“Hi, Amalia.”

She felt herself inexplicably drawn to him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stop.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do You mean?”

“You have made it into Me.”

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

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

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

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

“Amalia,” was all Jesus said.

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

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

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

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

“Amalia,” Jesus said. “Look at Me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will resisting him always work?”

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

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

 

 


The story behind the story:

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

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

 

Scriptures:

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

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

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

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

Exodus 34:17 Do not make any idols.

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

Amusement Park: The Hat, part 1

Amusement Park: The Hat, part 1

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

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

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

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

“You don’t need a hat.”

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

“You already have a few hats.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Which one is it?”

“The haunted house.”

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

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

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

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

“What’s the room like?”

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

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

“Sure, let’s do it.”

 

To be continued.

Amusement Park: Boat Ride

Amusement Park: Boat Ride

“I’ll meet you on the other side,” Jesus said as He helped Amalia into the little yellow boat.

“You’re not coming with me?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll still be with you, but in a different way.”

Amalia’s smile faded. She liked His presence, and wasn’t thrilled to have to be on this ride without it. True, this was just a little boat in a large pool with clear emerald water, as benign as a ride could get, but that didn’t really matter. She wanted to feel His presence. She watched, already missing Him, as He walked away and disappeared around a corner.

Turning her attention to the boat, she noticed two things right off. First, there was a steering wheel. Good, she liked having some control. Second, there was no source of power. No on/off switch. No accelerator to step on. No throttle to pull. How was she supposed to get this boat moving? And why a steering wheel if she couldn’t control the boat? It didn’t make sense.

Amalia looked around for someone in charge, but of the few people she saw, no one looked like a park employee. There were a few other boats moving around. Maybe one of them could help her out. “Hey!” she called, hands curved around her mouth. “How do you get this boat to go?”  When no one answered, she stood up and yelled, “HEY! A LITTLE HELP, PLEASE!” Still, no one appeared to hear her.

She sat back down. Now what? She considered her options. She could continue to yell for help. She could just sit there and wait for the ride controller to show up. Or she could leave.

Fine. She didn’t want to go on this ride anyway. At least not without Jesus. This was not what she thought it would be. She should just get off this stupid boat, and walk around to the other side of the pool. It’s not that far.

Grumbling, she stood up. But before she could step out, a voice called to her. “What are you doing? You’re going to tip the boat over! Sit down!”

Looking down, she noticed the boat was indeed rocking. She looked back up at the man who was running towards her. “Where have you been? I wouldn’t have had to stand up if you had been here doing your job!”

“Sorry, I had an emergency,” he managed between gulps of air. “My …”

“I don’t care.” Amalia cut in as she flopped back on to the seat. “Just get this boat going.”

“Well, you have to do that.”

“Don’t you think I’ve tried that? There’s no power switch or accelerator!” She frowned at the man. “Hurry up, will you? I’m supposed to meet someone on the other side.”

“It doesn’t run on that kind of power. It…”

Amalia interrupted again. “I don’t care what kind of power it runs on. Get it moving!” She could feel the anger taking control inside her, but she didn’t care. He could have gotten someone to take his place before running off for his “emergency”. He probably just wanted some pizza.

The man’s voice became hard. “Like I was saying, it runs on…”

“And like I was saying, I don’t care.”

“Lady, you’d better quit interrupting me or I’m going to make you leave.” He pointed towards the center of the park. “There’s plenty of other rides to complain about.”

“I want this one. Make this boat move.”

Through a clenched mouth, he said, “You have to use the steering wheel.”

Amalia raised her eyebrows and glared at him. “Are you dumb? Steering wheels are for guiding, not for power.” She ignored the conviction of wrongdoing that was growing inside her. If this man wasn’t being so difficult, she wouldn’t have to act like this.

“Me? At least I’m smart enough to know how to make the boat go. Quit being a jerk long enough for me to tell you.” He pointed his finger at the wheel. “This steering wheel is different. All you have to do is…”

Frustrated, she hit the steering wheel. The boat gave a jerk, knocking her back in her seat.

“… push on the steering wheel.”

Still glaring, she tentatively pushed on the wheel. The boat moved forward.

“To move backwards, just…”

“I think I got it,” Amalia didn’t let him finish. “I’m not stupid.”

She pushed down more firmly, and felt gratified when the boat leapt forward. Finally!0627200525 (2)

Without looking back, she sped off towards the center of the pool. She was in no mood to enjoy the ride. She just wanted to get to the other side as quickly as she could.

You shouldn’t have acted like that. Go back and apologize.

The thought startled her, but she pushed it away. She liked the feeling of power her anger had given her. She had a right to it. That man had not been doing his job. Besides, he wasn’t so nice to her either. And he had ruined this ride for her. How was she supposed to enjoy a leisurely trip across the pool when she had to hurry to meet Jesus now?

But the thought wouldn’t stay away. Each time it returned, she countered it with excuses, allowing the anger to build inside. It was his fault because he broke a park rule by leaving a ride unattended. It wasn’t fair that the other boat riders got to ride before she did. There should have been a how-to sign posted. Besides that guy wasn’t important, he just a worker. He deserved to be treated like that for delaying her ride and treating her so disrespectfully. Maybe he would think twice before doing that to someone else. He sure wouldn’t have acted that way if Jesus had been there. Yeah, if Jesus had been there, everything would have been great. Jesus should never have left her.

A splash of cold water on her face broke through her self-justification. The pool no longer looked like an emerald mirror. It was rough and growing rougher by the minute. She struggled to control the wheel as the waves crashed into her again and again. Scared now, she tried to orientate herself. She could no longer see the far edge of the pool. In fact, she could not see any edges. All she could see was water. Rough, angry water. Giving up trying to control the wheel, she held on to the sides of the boat as it rocked violently from side to side. Waves began to break over her now, and she watched with horror as the bottom filled with water. She was going to sink!

“Jesus! Help me!”

Not getting a response, she called out again. “Jesus, please save me!”

Again, no response. Did Jesus abandon her? Surely not. He promised to always be with her. So where was He? What was keeping Him from helping her?

She called out over and over, thinking maybe He hadn’t heard her over the sound of the waves. But she was met with silence each time. Finally, exhausted and hoarse, she slumped in her seat. The water was now chest high. She closed her eyes. “Jesus, You said You’d be with me even if I couldn’t see You. I’m going to hold on to your promise, and wait for You to answer.”

You shouldn’t have acted like that. Go back and apologize.

That same thought again, but this time, she acknowledged her wrongdoing. “I’m sorry. I was wrong to get angry. I was wrong to treat that man like that. It doesn’t matter how he treated me, I did not act as You have taught me. I did not treat him as I would have wanted to be treated by him. I sinned against You, and I have no excuse. I’m sorry for that, and for my disobedience. Please forgive me. I will do as You say. I will apologize to him, if I don’t die out here first.”

BOOM!

She jumped as one word, one mighty majestic word, boomed like thunder across the waters. “PEACE!” Instantly the waves receded and the pool became as still as glass. Amalia looked around in wonder. He did it! Jesus had saved her!

Standing up, not caring that the boat rocked, she raised her arms high. “I can’t see You, but I know You’re here! Sin has no place with You, for you are a holy God! When I confessed my sin, You were quick to forgive me. You are powerful and glorious!”

After worshiping for a while longer, Amalia sat back down, and continued across the pool to where Jesus was waiting for her.

“So, how was your ride?” He asked as he helped her out of the boat.

She thought about it for a minute. So many adjectives came to mind: powerful, scary, wet, weird, unexpected, convicting, horrible… But she settled on one.

“Educational.”

“Educational?”

“I learned some things that I hope I never forget.” She started walking back towards the park employee to deliver her apology.

“Like what?”

“God and sin do not mix. God is incredibly more powerful than I had thought. And God is quick to forgive.”

Jesus smiled. “Then that was one amazing ride.”

 

 

 


Scriptures:

Psalm 69:1-3  Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.

Jonah 2:2-5a  saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.” The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me…

Psalm 32:1-5 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Psalm 29:2-4  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

 

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.”