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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!”