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.

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, First Room – People

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, First Room – People

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

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

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

 

However, a few people did notice.

“Hey, there! How’s the ride going?”

“Have fun!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

So they did.

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, Prologue

Amusement Park: Haunted House Ride, Prologue

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

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

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

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

“Nope, I have a better idea.”

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

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

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

“Let’s do the haunted house.”

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

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

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

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

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

“So will you ride this one with Me?”

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

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

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

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

She nodded, and realized she really was ready.

An Amusement Park?

“Do you want to go for a walk?” Confused, she watched him walk towards the door.

Frequently, when she came to visit, they spent some time together before going somewhere else. But this time, as soon as he saw her, he just headed to the door. He hadn’t said anything, but maybe he had assumed she would just follow him.

So she did.

She expected to see a field when she went through the doorway. That’s where he usually took her. A green grassy field full of colorful flowers, bordered on one side by a flowing river. But that’s not what she saw.

Instead, she saw a large canopy, set up in the middle of nothing. It was colorful, and0225201830 (3) formed a kind of entrance way. Into what she had no idea. He took her hand and pulled her towards it. He still had not said anything, but he was almost dancing as he guided her. Clearly he was excited about bringing her to this place.

Once inside, she was able to glimpse the other side.

“An amusement park?” She shook her head. What was this doing here, in her field of flowers? She liked the field and the river where they usually spent time. Both were peaceful places where she could relax with him. But an amusement park was anything but peaceful. The blaring music of the rides, the constant need to weave through the crowds, the barking of the game attendants, and the smell of greasy foods – of which she could do without.  He wanted to bring her here? Why?

As they exited the canopy, she noticed right away that there was something different about this park. She saw the typical rides found at most amusement parks, such as a Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, and a roller coaster. In the distance she could see a variety of other rides, booths, and pavilions, also found in most amusement parks. So what made this one different?

Then she got it. This one was pretty quiet.  Not too much movement. No people screaming. No loud music. It seemed… almost gentle. Still, an amusement park?

“You want me to go to an amusement park with you?”

“Yes.”

“But, why?”

“Because walking with me should be fun!”

He didn’t say any more, but she knew what he meant. She tended to be way too serious most of the time. She stressed over getting things right. And worked hard to do everything she could for him. That must be why he took her to quiet, peaceful places when she visited his home. She needed the time with him to relax.

But now he was showing her a different way to live.  Life didn’t have to be so serious. She didn’t have to worry about doing everything just right. With him by her side, she could enjoy the thrill of the rides, knowing he would be with her. She could let herself enjoy the wind in her face as she roared around the tracks of a roller coaster, knowing he would keep her from flying out to her death. She could enjoy both the heights and the depths of a giant Ferris wheel, even when she couldn’t see where she was going, because somehow he could. She could enjoy riding around in circles on the merry-go-round, even when she thought she was going nowhere and that it would never end, because it was time spent with him. She could even enjoy playing the rigged games people played, hoping she’d win but knowing she probably wouldn’t, because he was there to replace what she lost.

An amusement park? Could she really have fun? Could she let go enough to actually enjoy the rides with him? She wasn’t very confident in herself. But she had learned to trust him. And the park did appear to have been made specifically for her. So, she turned to him with a tentative smile.

“An amusement park? Sure, let’s go.”

Caught in the Act

Life is full of temptations. All kinds of temptations. And temptations can be quite messy.

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Have you even given in to temptation – then got caught in the middle of it?  How do you get rid of the mess?

Ignoring it doesn’t make it to go away.  “What cake?”

Apologizing doesn’t make it go away. “I’m sorry.”

Denying it doesn’t make it go away. “I didn’t do it.”

Blaming others doesn’t make it go away.  “You gave me this cake! What did you expect?”

Rubbing at it doesn’t make it go away. “I’m trying but it just won’t come off.”

Walking away from it doesn’t make it go away.  “I’m done with it.”

There’s only one way to get completely cleansed from the mess. Calling for help. “Daddy, help me!”

God will scoop you up and bathe you. And then clean up your life. Depending on how bad the mess is and how long you waited before calling for His help, the scrubbing may take a while, and be uncomfortable, even painful.  But if you allow Him to finish, you will be squeaky clean once again, without a speck of the mess on you. However, there may be parts of your life that will always be a bit stained. I know God is capable of removing all stains, but I think He lets some stains stay to help us remember what happens when we give into temptation.

With our short memories, we need the reminders. And I’m thankful for them.

 

For those who have been following my life, that is not a picture of my granddaughter. That is a picture of her mother, my daughter, that I ran into recently.

Here’s a picture of my granddaughter on her first birthday a few months ago. 🙂0613191901b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Determined One (from Someone Who Loves You series)

Dear Determined One,

I see you there, no longer content with the limited view allowed by lying in your bed. I see you there, working so hard to sit up so that you can see a much larger part of your world.  You have learned that there is more in life than what you had once thought and you want to see it all. So you work on it day after day, never giving up even though you see little progress. What you don’t realize is that the progress happens inside first, hidden from everyone, even from yourself.  As you exercise, little by little, your inner self is strengthened and built up until one day you make it to that sitting position that you were so determined to achieve. And I will be there with everyone else celebrating your victory! Don’t give up, sweet girl. When it’s time, it will happen.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

1 Timothy 4:8 Amplified Bible (AMP)

For physical training is of some value, but godliness (spiritual training) is of value in everything and in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.

 

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.

 

When Walking Gets Hard

Walking used to be easy. In fact, it was so easy, she pretty much bounced with each step. She loved to  listen to the birds and watch the  squirrels scurry about as she walked.

But after a long time, she noticed it was getting harder and harder to walk. She no longer had a bounce in her step. Each step took deliberate effort. It felt like she was walking into a strong wind. But there wasn’t any wind. Or like she was wading through deep water. But there was no flood.  So what was slowing her down, making her work so hard to keep her forward momentum? She had no idea. All she knew was that she had to keep moving if she wanted to make it back home.

Much more time passed, and she was still struggling. In fact, it was now so hard to move it took all her concentration. She had no interest in the birds or squirrels. Each step took every ounce of determination she had as she slowly forced it forward. She held her arms up in front of her as she bent forwards, hoping that by shifting her center of balance, she could get gravity to help move her forwards. But even her arms took effort to keep them in front of her.

Bent almost double now, sweat pouring from her body, she wondered if she should just quit. It would be so easy to stop moving. Staying in the same place wouldn’t be so bad, would it? It was nice here. She thought of her home. It was nicer than where she was, but was it really worth the effort? What if the effort cost her more than she had? What if she died trying to get home? What good would her home do her then? Maybe staying in this place was best after all.

She had just about stopped moving when she heard a whisper coming from deep within her. No, not quite a whisper. Just the hint of a voice, really. So quiet she almost missed it. “Keep going,” was all it said. But with the voice came a strong sense of longing to finish this walk and get home – a feeling that someone was watching and cheering her on. Not understanding but willing to trust it, she started moving again.

It took tremendous strength and even more willpower to take the next few steps. She was so tired, she could think of nothing except shuffling her feet forward one inch at a IMG_20181009_074336724time. But after a time, she realized she was getting stronger. She could see muscles in her arms and legs where previously there was only flab. And her feet were beginning to move a little easier. Instead of an inch, she was able to go several inches with each step. Then a whole foot at a time. It was like as she got stronger, whatever had a hold on her began to break off piece by piece. Soon she was able to straighten up and walk with her hands swinging by her sides again. Moving quickly now, she was delighted to see her home come into view.

As she turned into the driveway, she noticed she was once again bouncing with each step. Squirrels scampered around the nearby trees that lined the long driveway. And she heard a bird singing somewhere over her head.

Sighing with pleasure, she was so glad she had not given up. Yes, all that effort WAS worth it! She was home!

When Life Gets in the Way

img_20180731_010139614.jpgHave you missed me?

I’ve missed you!

I had finally found a way to carve out some writing time every few days… and life with my new granddaughter changed again. From thrush and 2 month shots to growth spurts and dietary changes, it’s been a bit tough around here. That means more stress and less sleep. Which definitely interferes with my ability to be creative.

Hopefully things are settling down again now and I should be able to get back to some writing. Bella is about to get some answers in my ongoing Bella series. And I have a few analogies bouncing around in my head with pictures I have been taking – of storms and power lines and swimming pools. I’m even thinking about taking one day a week to post portions of the full length novel I had started writing before AJ was born.

With limited time right now, I’ll have to create a priority list though. I would love to know – what would you like me to put at the top of this priority list?

Clouds

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Clouds are amazing! So many tiny droplets of water moving across the sky powered by the wind!  Clouds continually change shape and will eventually disappear as the droplets fall back to earth. But before they do, the people who watch them are filled with fascination and wonder.

 

 

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Just like life.

 

So many moments moving across time powered by the breath of God! Our lives continually change shape and eventually disappear as we return to the dust from which we were made. But while we are here, if we take the time to really look, our lives are just as fascinating.

 

What is life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14

Life in a Swimming Pool

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The pool was filling up. Maybe she should leave now, before it got too crowded.  But not really wanting to leave the cool water, she decided to watch the people around her instead. Everyone was enjoying the water in different ways.

“Marco.” The voice caught her attention and she looked to her left and saw a young girl standing in water up to her chin, eyes closed, calling out, “Marco” every few seconds. Each time she called, several other children moving around her called back, “Polo.”  As she heard their responses, she would turn in their direction and, without opening her eyes, reach out to try to tag one of them. But she never moved from where she was. It reminded her of something she had read in Proverbs. “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” That’s so much like us, she thought. There is wisdom all around us, and if we call out, we can hear it. But we won’t ever find it if we just stay put in one place and make half-hearted attempts to touch it.

Laughter caught her attention. She turned to look and saw some mothers and daughters playing keep away. They were laughing as they tossed a water ball back and forth, no one having very good aim, and teams changing places in the middle frequently.

“Keep away,” she muttered. “I hate that game. Either the players on the ends are too good at tossing the ball high over the middle person’s head, or no one really cares about the game and end up half-heartedly tossing the ball. There’s no good challenge either way.”

So why are they laughing?

She had to think about that for awhile. Maybe the kids are laughing because they’re so little and don’t really know anything about the game. They just enjoy being in the water and throwing a ball around. And maybe the moms are laughing because their daughters are laughing. Is that how God sees us? He takes delight in watching us enjoy His creation?

She watched another group play a game she wasn’t familiar with. Evidently, one person is a shark and calls out “Swim”, then tries to catch the other people (minnows) as they swim from one side of the pool to the other. Most of the time, the minnows would just start swimming as fast as they could hoping to out swim the shark but the shark was able to catch whichever minnow it was after. However there was one minnow who stood out. She would watch the shark intently , wait for the shark to go after a minnow, then move quietly in a different direction, staying as far away from the shark as she could. If the shark happened to see her, she would sink into the water, causing the shark to have more difficulty seeing her. Underwater, she could swim faster and when she emerged, she’d be ten feet away. Time and time again she got away from the shark using this strategy.

Now, that’s a whole like us and temptation, she thought. Most of the time when temptation arises, we either fall easy prey to it, or we try to use out own power to avoid it. It might work now and then, but eventually that shark is going to get us. We should be more like that wise girl. Stay as far away as we can, and, when that doesn’t work, dive deep into Jesus, allowing Him to cover us as we make our escape.

A loud cry from the other side of the pool brought her attention to a man holding a very little girl, trying to talk her into letting him toss her up and catching her. She cried each time he mentioned it. The mom called from the side to quit talking about it and just do it. So he did and the little girl laughed. He repeated it several times, delighting in her laughter. Then he tried to talk her into going underwater with him so he could toss her higher. She refused and began crying again.

So much like us and God, she thought. It’s probably why He won’t tell us all His plans for us. We’d be as terrified as that little girl and refuse every invitation He gives us. Yet, He knows how much we would enjoy it once we got past the fear.

She was intrigued watching a young girl chatting with her friend, totally ignoring a younger girl who kept hitting her with a water ball. How could she do that? She knew if anyone kept hitting her with something, she’d get irritated and angry. But then she thought, isn’t that what Satan does? Constantly hitting us with something to mess with our peace and cause us to get irritated and angry? “God,” she prayed silently, “help me be able to ignore the arrows Satan throws at me as well as this little girl is ignoring the ball being slammed on her.”

There was a man floating in the midst of all this, eyes closed, ignoring everything around him as he relaxed.

Now that’s the right idea, she thought. To be able to rest on Jesus and ignore all the problems around us would be amazing!

She was dismayed to see another group of people enter the pool. OK, now it was just getting too crowded. Regretfully she climbed out of the pool and prepared to go home. As she did, she had one final thought: “This is like how one day I will climb out of the swimming pool of life and head to my heavenly home!” She smiled.  “Only I’ll do so with way more excitement than I feel right now!”