Amusement Park: Bungee Jump

Amusement Park: Bungee Jump

“Are you ready?” the man asked as he did a final check on the straps.

Amalia wasn’t so sure. It had sounded doable from down below, but from up here, it looked insane. Jump out into nothingness, with only a bungee cord attached to her? How does He talk her into these things? 0614202153 (2)

 

She looked down again at the tiny X. Her target. Second thoughts plagued her as her heart tried to beat its way out of her chest. Maybe He was just testing her, like He had with Abraham. Maybe He would stop her before she stepped off the edge. Or maybe she had heard Him wrong. Maybe there was another way down, one that provided more security. Like an elevator. She turned around to ask Him, but He was not there.

Panic joined her fear, and she began to shake. Wasn’t He going to jump with her? He promised He’d always be with her. Didn’t that include impossible things, like this jump?

She looked back over the edge of the platform again.

No, no… she couldn’t do it. She could not make herself walk off that platform no matter what He had said.

“You can trust Me,” He had said.

“Do not fear,” He had said.

“I will be with you,” He had said.

“You were made for this,” He had said.

But now that it was actually time for that first step, she regretted ever agreeing to it. Turning around, she opened her mouth to tell the man that she had changed her mind, but stopped when she saw him shake his head. “No turning back,” he told her, gesturing for her to turn back around. “You may as well get it done. The longer you procrastinate, the harder it will be.”

Dismayed, and with a sense of fatality, she turned back to the great expanse of nothingness. She had no idea what was going to happen, but if she had to jump, then jump she would. If she perished, it would be God’s fault, since He was the one who got into this predicament.

She took the smallest steps she could, inch by inch, until she got to the edge. Breathing rapidly, not daring to look down again, she lifted a foot. And froze. She couldn’t do it. She just didn’t have it in her to continue.

“Yes, you do,” came a soft, encouraging whisper from deep within her. “Because I’m in you. Don’t trust what you fear; trust what I’ve promised.”

Grasping tightly to that voice, she stepped off.

It was just as terrifying as she had thought. The target grew quickly until it was all she saw. She was going to crash! But just as that thought formed in her mind, she was jerked back up into the air. The bungee cord! She had forgotten about that!

Her second descent wasn’t near as frightening as the initial one. A calmness now rose up in her, and she began to enjoy herself. This time, as she neared the target, she was confident the bungee cord would save her.

Her joy and sense of freedom, a freedom filled with the Presence inside her, increased on each subsequent fall. By the time the ride was over and she was standing on the X, she was hooked. She couldn’t wait until she could jump off into nothingness again.

“Amalia, well done!” Jesus congratulated her as He walked up.

“Jesus! That was amazing! I want to do it again!”

He laughed. “You will get many chances. Each time I ask you to speak to someone about Me, especially to people who may ridicule or persecute you, it will be like jumping off that platform. But don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Remember that I am in you, strengthening you from the inside, and that my love for you will keep you safe.”

Amalia wasn’t too sure about the ‘ridicule’ and ‘persecution’ parts, but the rest was exciting. More chances to jump with Him? Anytime!

 


 

How often do we let fear of what others say stop us from going where God sends us? How do you deal with that fear?

 

Scriptures:

Matt 28:19-20  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Proverbs 29:25 (ESV)  The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

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

Heb 11:1 (By Faith) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Heb 11:8 By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going.

Heb 11:17-19  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

1 Cor 2:5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

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.”

 

–  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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: Ferris Wheel

Amusement Park: Ferris Wheel

“Are You sure we’re safe?” Amalia sat still, eyes staring straight ahead, not daring to move a muscle, fearing even the smallest twitch would cause the pod they were sitting in to rock dangerously.

“Perfectly safe. You’re with Me, remember?”

“Yeah, but I don’t like heights.”

“You did when you were on the mountain. Remember the view from the top?”

“That was different. I was standing on solid ground, not sitting in a rising pod that could flip over at any moment.”

“It won’t, but let’s say it did. You’d still be fine. Even upside down, with that seat belt, you’re not going down.”

Amalia wasn’t convinced. “What if the seat belt isn’t enough?”

“Is that why you’re holding on so tightly to this handle bar?.” He touched her fist, white from its death grip on the bar. “You don’t have to hold on to it at all.”

“Easy for You to say. If we flipped over, You’d probably stay right there on the seat while I plummet to my death. Gravity has no hold on You.”

“Amalia… Amy, my love… I thought You trusted Me. What did I tell you when we sat down in this pod?”

“You said this seat belt would keep me safe.”

“And do you believe Me?”

“Um… yes…”

“Then why are you still holding on to the handle bar?”

Amalia didn’t know what to say. Jesus never lied, and if He said the seat belt was enough, then it must be. But shouldn’t she also do her part to keep herself safe, like keeping perfectly still and holding on to the stronger-looking bars she could see right in front of her? She knew the belt was fastened across her lap, she had seen and felt it as Jesus buckled her in when they first sat down, but now, with her gaze frozen straight ahead, she could no longer see it. How could she trust something she couldn’t see? What if it wasn’t fastened securely anymore?0522201752 (2)

“Amalia, where is your trust right now?” Jesus asked as they came to a stop at the top of the Ferris wheel.

“It’s on You,” she answered quickly.

“Is it really?”

“Yes.”

“Then let go.”

“You don’t mean that! What’s wrong with me holding on?”

“It shows where your trust really is.”

“But I trust You. I wouldn’t even be here without You. Holding the bars just make me feel better. Like I have some control.”

“That’s just it. You have no control. There is nothing you can do, or not do, that would save you if this pod tipped over. Only the belt I placed on you can do that.”

“Well, if the bar can’t keep me from falling, then why is it there?”

“It forms a sort of boundary. It’s not meant to keep you from falling, but to keep your ride more enjoyable. As long as you stay behind it, there’s little chance of the pod tipping over. But if you go beyond it, there’s a good chance the pod will begin to move in ways you don’t like, and, if it tips drastically, you may experience loss. Not loss of your life, because the belt is still on, but loss of loose things which may fall, such as a hat, sunglasses, or things in your pocket or purse.”

“Oh.”

“Look around, Amalia. There is nothing as invigorating as riding a Ferris wheel with Me. There’s so much you can see from here. It’s almost like you can see into forever.”

Amalia loosened her grip on the bars, but didn’t let go. She slowly turned her eyes from side to side. Jesus was right. The sight was amazing! The amusement park laid out in front of her, leading to streets and highways filled with people journeying towards their destinations, and even further, the greens and browns of fields and forests. And the  endless sky! It was like she was part of it, and yes, it felt like looking into forever.

But could she let go of the handle bars? Could she put all her trust in the seat belt Jesus had fastened on her? Could she let go of her fear, and trust what He had told her?

As the pod slowly descended, she found herself relaxing. Yes, maybe she could let go. Jesus had always been trustworthy. The belt was there. She was safe. And the closer she got to the ground, the safer she felt. She was just about to let go when the pod began rising again. Fear filled her one more, and her fists tightened on their own accord as the ground receded. She knew in her head that she was still safe regardless of what she saw around her, but her heart was not agreeing. Doubts flooded her. What if she had heard Jesus wrong? What if she had misunderstood His words? What if being safe from falling required both the belt and the handle bars? Wasn’t she responsible for doing what she could, too?

“Jesus, help me,” she whispered. “I want to enjoy this ride. I want to trust what You say. But I’m still afraid.”

“Amalia,” came back the gentle voice. “You have to choose. Where will you put your trust? Will you put it in what you do? Or will you put it in what I have done?”

Put that way, Amalia knew what her decision would be. Yet it didn’t come easy for her. Her grip on the handle bars tightened and loosened in time with the rising and lowering of the pod as they continued revolving in the giant vertical circle. Eventually, though, she got tired of the struggle, and knew the time had come. She had to choose. More than that, she had to act on her choice.

“Okay, Jesus. I choose what You did, not what I do.” She took a deep breath, and then quickly, before she could change her mind, took her hands off the bar. Immediately she grabbed Jesus’ hands with both of hers. “Hold me, Lord. I’m completely depending on You.”

“I’m always holding you, my sweet Amalia.” Jesus’ delighted voice washed over her, filling her heart with peace. “Now we can enjoy this ride together.”

As the Ferris wheel continued to turn, Amalia found herself doing just that. Talking about what they saw, snuggling up against each other, and laughing at each other’s jokes, they became totally engrossed in the ride. From time to time, Amalia forgot about – or chose to go beyond – the boundary, and leaned out over the bar to see something that caught her attention, causing the pod to tip. But each time, she apologized to Jesus for rocking their pod, and it would return to the gentle upright swaying that she had grown to love.

Way too soon, the ride slowed and came to an end. Amalia sighed as she exited the pod. Would any other ride here even come close to the joy of this one?

“Jesus, can we ride the Ferris wheel again?”

“Yes, and, actually, in a way, you’ll always be riding it. But right now I have another ride in mind. Are you ready?”

“With You, I’m ready for anything!”

Little did she know how quickly she would regret those words.

 

 

Application:

Have you ever thought about where your trust for salvation is? Or how much of your trust is in Jesus? I struggled with that as a new Christian years ago, and wonder how many other people did the same. I’d love to hear your story!

 

Biblical Basis

Eph 6:14a  Stand, therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth… (or in Amalia’s case: “Sit there…”)

John 14:6  Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 

Eph. 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ps 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Amusement Park, Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 3

Amusement Park, Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 3

Amalia didn’t know how long she stayed huddled on that mountain side waiting to die, but when death didn’t meet her, her thoughts began to resurface. Questions bubbled up one after another. Where was she? What should she do next? Had she taken a wrong step somewhere? Where was Jesus? Why wasn’t He helping her? Should she continue going up, go down, or stay put? Why did bad things always have to happen to her?

Enough! If she was going to get out of this, she needed to stop whining and start remembering. What was the last thing Jesus told her to do?  Something like, “Remember what I told you.” And that it “was enough”. Hmmm… what had He told her that He wanted her to remember? Slowly it came back to her. He would be with her every step of the way. He would provide, protect, and guide her. He wanted to celebrate being at the top of the mountain with her. Since what He had said didn’t match to what she was now seeing and feeling, she knew she had to choose which she would believe. And it was not going to be easy.

She thought about what she knew about Jesus. She remembered all the times He had proven to be faithful. He had never lied to her, not even once. And He always kept His promises to her. She had learned to trust Him in a variety of circumstances. So what made this one any different? She made up her mind. If He said He was going to be with her every step of the way, then He was here with her now even if she couldn’t see Him. If He said He would provide, protect, and guide her, then she wasn’t lost or in danger no matter how she felt. And if He said He was going to celebrate with her at the top, then she wasn’t going to die. Strengthened by faith, she stood up and took a step. She had no idea if it was the correct step, but she trusted that if it wasn’t, Jesus would keep His promise to let her know. She took another step, then another. Still not hearing anything, she continued trudging up the slippery, snow covered slope, bending into the wind while reaching out to grab anything that she could use to pull herself forward. Her sandals were no match for the snow and she slipped often. But her determination kept her going inch by inch, for so long that she forgot all her objections and complaints, and accepted this journey as her plight in life. If she was going to trudge up this mountain in these conditions forever, so be it. Her health, her safety, her very life was in Jesus’ hands. She was His to do with as He pleased. Acknowledging this gave her a sense of peace she wasn’t expecting, and she found herself humming songs she knew He loved.

Suddenly a brilliant beam of warm sunlight broke through the swirling mist, the wind died down, and Amalia could see clearly. As she straightened up, she stared around her. She had never seen anything so breathtaking, nor felt anything so sacred! The bold, majestic face of the mountains that surrounded her, topped by glittering ice and snow, filled her with such a sense of divine power and glory that she fell to her knees. It was like being in God’s presence in a way she had never experienced before, and she felt so small and insignificant before His magnificence. And yet, she could sense His love for her  0501201030a (2)radiating out from the heavens into the deepest parts of her heart.  She wrapped herself in that sensation, eyes closed and spirit worshipping, for what felt like eons. She didn’t want to stop, but eventually her body gave out and she fell back onto the snowy ground. Weird how the snow didn’t freeze her as she lay there. It was actually soft, not warm, but not cold either. She eventually sat up and looked out over the valley below her. The patterns of browns, greens, and blues of the trees, fields, and rivers mesmerized her. She also knew there were people down there, lots of people going about their business, but they were too far way to be seen. She felt out of touch with that life. There was no sense of time here, no sense of needing to be busy doing things or planning for the future. Being up here was like being in a different world.

“Amalia!! I knew you would make it!”

Amalia turned to see Jesus dancing His way towards her. The look on His face was one of delight, pride, and approval. Just seeing it made everything Amalia had gone through worth it.

“Jesus! You’re here!”

“Of course! I told You I would always be with you. Even up here!” He laughed as He took her hands and danced around the clearing with her.

After a while, breathless from the exuberant dance, she asked, “Where are we?”

“On the mountaintop. A place few people make it to. A place where you get to see God in a way you don’t when down in the valley.”

“Do I get to stay here, so I never have to make that climb again?”

“Sorry, no. No one gets to stay on a mountaintop. Your spirit delights in it, but your body wouldn’t be able to handle it for long. One day, when you shed your body, you’ll get to stay in an even better place forever. But for now, enjoy being here at this time. Soon we will have to start the climb back down to get to the car.”

The car? She had forgotten all about the car and the haunted house ride. They seemed so mundane, so tame now, compared to what she had just experienced. How could she go back to that life and be happy?

“Cheer up, Amalia. I’ll still be with you down there. My purpose for you is not complete yet. There are things you still need to do and learn. And, besides, there will be other mountains to climb.”

Amalia knew nothing would ever compare to this day, but accepted what Jesus told her. She was needed down there. She had more to learn. And Jesus would be with her. She could wait for the promised better place, because she knew without doubt that Jesus always kept His promises.

“Okay, Jesus. Before we head back down, can we dance together one more time?”

 

All the way down the mountain, Amalia basked in her memories of her mountaintop experience. In spite of the same obstacles and dangers, she found the way down much easier than the climb up. Maybe it had something to do with going with gravity instead of against it. Or maybe it had something to do with the good things she was thinking about instead of the unpleasant things she had focused on when climbing up. In either case, it seemed like in almost no time they were down at the bottom and heading to the car. As they walked, she tried to discuss her experience with Jesus, but was dismayed to find that her memories were already fading. Sighing, she grew quiet in order to hang on to them the best she could.

“We’re here. Ready to go on?” Jesus’ voice interrupted her internal reminiscing.

Reluctantly she looked back at the mountain before climbing into the car. She had thought the room with all the toys had been her favorite, and that this room was a horrible joke. But now she realized this room had become her favorite by far, and couldn’t imagine how any future rooms would even be able to hold her interest.

She would soon find out.

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 2

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 2

The climb was just hard as she has imagined it. The dangers were every bit as real, and the top of the mountain never seemed any closer. It felt like she was going to be climbing forever. Jesus was true to His word. He directed her along paths away from cliffs, showed her good plants to eat, gave her clean water from surprising sources when she was thirsty, chased away all the dangerous animals, and provided safe places to rest when she got too tired to move on. Sometimes He would disappear – preparing the way, He said – but was always within earshot. All she had to do was call, and He was back by her side.

0501201030 (2)

And yet, in between the hard places, there were times she was delightfully surprised at what she found. Refreshing streams bubbling over colorful pebbles and emptying into golden emerald ponds.  Birds singing to each other from the branches of the trees. A newborn fawn laying in the shadow of bushes loaded with berries. An unexpected clearing covered with a patch of soft grass. The powerful sound of the wind in the tall trees that surrounded her. The majestic view of the valley below her surrounded by even higher mountains. Abandoned cabins, still containing signs of the life it once held.

Her favorites, though, were the places where the water fell from great heights, bouncing over boulders of varying sizes, and splashing down into refreshing pools at the bottom. Her eyes traveled the path of the water droplets, letting the roar and splashing of the water fill her until she thought of nothing else. She tried to imagine what it would be like to be able to play with the waterfall like the birds did as they flew in and out of the mist created by the splashing water. Or what kinds of secret caves the falling water hid. The smaller waterfalls were just as intriguing. Sometimes the water looked like it was rushing to its destination, while the water in other waterfalls seemed to be enjoying a much slower pace. She couldn’t resist reaching out to touch the water, and marveled at the sensation of the icy coldness running over her hand. No matter how big or little the waterfall was, she wanted to spend hours at each. Sometimes Jesus let her, but other times He called her away to continue their walk.

Slowly, Amalia’s attitude began to change. Her trust in Jesus grew as He did what He said He would do, and she no longer feared what she might face. No matter how hard it got, knowing He was there made it all doable. She found her focus shifting from anticipating the unknown to finding joy in the moment. She didn’t have to worry about how to cross this mountain. She didn’t have to worry about how to deal with any problems or obstacles that might arise. That was Jesus’ job. All she had to do was follow His directions. With Him taking care of the big scary details, she was free to enjoy the small fun ones.

But then they entered a fog that grew thicker with each step. The swirling mist swallowed up everything around them until she could barely see the ground in front of her. She even lost sight of Jesus from time to time.

“Jesus? What is this?”

“Not to worry. This mountain is so tall that it goes up into the clouds. The fog around us, the clouds, shows us that we are nearing the top.”

“But I can’t see anything. How can I stay on the path when I can’t even see it?”

“It’s no different than before. I’m still with you. I’m still guiding, protecting, and providing for you.”

“I bet You can see through this… this… swirling mess. That’s why You can say it’s no different. But it IS different for me. I can’t see!”

“You don’t have to. You have Me.”

“But, how will I be able to follow You if I can’t see You?” Amalia stopped walking. “How do I know that the next step I take won’t lead me off a cliff?”

Jesus sighed. “Amalia, I thought you trusted Me.”

“I do, but this is different.”

“Why? Have I changed?”

“No.”

“Other than the fog, has the mountain changed?”

“No. I don’t think so, but then, how would I know if I can’t see it?”

“What if I told you that it hadn’t?”

“I guess I would believe You.”

“So, if I haven’t changed, and the mountain hasn’t changed, what changed?”

Amalia thought about that for a few minutes. And then she got it.

“My vision. What I can see changed.”

“Exactly. You trusted Me before, trust Me now. Instead of focusing on what you see, focus on what you hear.”

Amalia wasn’t happy about this turn of events. It wasn’t fair to expect her to continue walking a hard path without being able to enjoy the beauty along the way. And, being a visual learner, she had always done better using her sight than her hearing. Suddenly she wanted nothing else than to be on the other side of the mountain and in the car that was supposed to be waiting for them. “Okay, fine. Let’s go. The faster we do this, the faster we can get to the other side.”

If Jesus minded her tone, He didn’t show it. “That’s the spirit!” He said. “We’re not far from the top.”

At first Jesus stayed close by, telling her where to walk, encouraging each step she took, and letting her know if she wandered to the left or to the right of the path. It wasn’t as bad as walking completely blind because Amalia could still see the ground, but only enough of it to take one or two hesitant steps at a time. She missed using her sight, but slowly began to get better at using her ears. Through the fog she could hear the calls of the birds and imagine them flitting from branch to another. She could hear the roar of the waterfalls and imagine the crashing water. She could hear the mighty wind above her and imagine the leaves dancing in the trees . As she focused on the sounds around her, she realized that she could hear Jesus better also.

Slowly, as she grew comfortable following Jesus’ words instead of His body, she actually began to enjoy the walk, taking each step more confidently. She found a strange beauty in the fog that she had never noticed before. The fog’s muting of the birds, waterfalls, and wind was actually peaceful. Almost like being in the dark room with Jesus. She didn’t even mind when the dirt path became covered with snow, making the path even harder to walk. She trusted that Jesus would not let her wander into dangerous ground, and would be quick to correct her each time she drifted from the path He had her on. However, the increasing strength of the wind around her caused her some concern. Jesus had told her He would direct her steps, but what was going to keep her from blowing off the mountain? And where was He, by the way? It dawned on her that she hadn’t heard His voice for a while now. She stopped walking and listened harder. No Voice. Had she become overconfident and taken a wrong turn somewhere? Was she lost now?

“Jesus! Where are You?”

So soft, like a whisper just barely heard over the wind, came the words, “Remember what I told you.”

“That’s it? That’s all I get when I need You the most?”

“It’s enough.”

She wanted to scream in frustration. She had done everything He had asked her. She had trusted everything He said. And this is where it got her? Lost in the blinding fog and blown around by the gusty wind? She shivered as she realized she was also freezing. She stooped down, hugging her knees, in an effort to escape the harsh conditions around her. Feeling abandoned and alone and afraid, she faced her worse fear: she was going to die.

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 1

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 1

Still staring at her image, Amalia didn’t notice the car start up and push through the next door. Could this really be her? If Jesus said it was, then it had to be. But she couldn’t believe it. She knew herself better.  A warrior? She was so full of fears and insecurities that she doubted she could ever battle anything. Right now she was a nobody, not some great warrior. And she was hardly confident or joyful most days. If the mirror was showing what Jesus saw when He looked at her, like He said it did, then it must be how Jesus saw her as she would be one day when she got to heaven. Certainly not as she was right now.

Slowly the sounds of birds singing and leaves rustling in the wind penetrated her thoughts. She lowered the mirror and looked around with confused pleasure as the car came to another stop. They were at the edge of a grassy field, with colorful flowers dotting the ground for as far as she could see. Here and there large spreading trees were providing shade and protection to the birds that flew around their branches. But neither the flowers nor the trees compared to the majestic mountains she could see in the far distance.

How could this be? They were in a haunted house. A house with walls and a ceiling. And yet it appeared that they were now in an open field, maybe a valley, leading to some gorgeous mountains. Amalia frowned in concentration, trying to make sense of what she saw, heard, and felt. The mountains could just be an incredible painted mural, the breeze could be created by hidden fans, and the bird songs could be recordings. But those were real flowers, and they went on for what appeared to be miles. More mirrors? And what about the trees? They were huge, too big to fit in this building. But they were definitely real. The nearest one was so close she could make out the design of its bark.

“Jesus, where are we?”

“We are right where we’re supposed to be. Come on, from here we have to walk. The next door is over those mountains.”

Amalia sat, eyes moving over the landscape. Surely she had heard Him wrong. “We have to walk?”

He was already climbing out of the car. “Come on, let’s get started.”

She slowly climbed out, still looking around with wide eyes. Wherever they were, Jesus was enjoying it. Maybe she should quit trying to figure it out, and just enjoy it like He was. Besides, if they had to get out and walk in one of the rooms of this crazy house, this one was by far the best one.

As they walked, she couldn’t get enough of the beauty all around her. The deep green of the grass blades complemented the brilliant white of the clouds floating in a cobalt blue sky.  And those flowers! The soft, colorful petals, each so different and yet perfectly shaped! Bees buzzed in and around many of them, joining the soft sounds of bird calls and rustling leaves. Inhaling deeply, she sighed. This place was much better than anywhere else she could imagine. Not even those scary looking mountains could contain as much beauty as this place. Why did she have to climb them anyway? They looked way harder than anything she had ever done before. Why couldn’t Jesus just make an easier way to get to the car? Even better, why even get to the car at all? Why not stay here? It was so perfect here, with none of the problems and worries that seemed to fill the world outside this place.

She stopped, and turned to Jesus. “Can we just stay here? With You, I won’t need anything else.”

He chuckled. “Well, it’s true that with Me you have everything. But you weren’t made to stay here. We have a ride to finish, and the car is on the other side of those mountains.”

0426201403 (2)

He pointed to them with such great joy and excitement that Amalia wondered what He was seeing that she didn’t see. Didn’t He know how difficult this looked to her? Hadn’t He noticed how dubious she felt? If He would just tell her what He saw, she might feel better about the whole thing. And yet He didn’t. Sometimes He could be so frustrating. Sighing, she began walking.

At first it was easy, but the incline of the field grew steadily steeper, and soon she lost sight of the beauty of the place as she focused on her feet and on her breathing. The lush green grass had grown sparse in places, with patches of rocks and loose dirt that caused her feet to frequently stumble. She began to regret wearing sandals instead of hiking shoes. But then, how was she to know she would end up where she was?

“I’m here. Take My hand. I won’t let you fall,” she heard Jesus say when she had stumbled the first time. She did, and found that holding on to Him steadied her. But as they walked, she kept finding the need to use both hands to shake out small pebbles that got in her sandals, or to shade her eyes from the bright sun while she pushed the taller weeds out of her way. As the inclined steepened, she stumbled more frequently. Sometimes she remembered to grab His hand. Or His shoulder. Or His clothes. But other times, she was too busy flailing her arms in panic to think of Him, so He would reach out to her with His steadying arm.

Finally He told her, “Let’s sit down and rest for a few minutes.”

She sank down and closed her eyes in relief. Walking with Jesus in this room was a lot harder than it looked. She had thought it would be easy, surrounded by beauty all the way. But she hadn’t expected the increase in slope to make such a difference. It also seemed the harder the walk became, the harder it was to see the beauty. Well, she had to admit, the beauty was still there, but the more she focused on her feet, the less of the beauty she saw. Maybe, when they continued walking, she should try to keep her eyes looking upward instead of downward.

All too soon, Jesus pulled her up, and they continued their walk towards the mountains. As they walked, He told her of what to expect.

“It’s quite high so we will have to go slower. There are paths in some areas, but in others, we will have to make our own way. There are dangers everywhere: animals, poisonous plants, cliffs, and sudden storms. You will get tired. You will get hungry. You will want to quit. But be assured that I am with You. I can keep you safe from every danger, as long as you do as I say.”

“If it’s that hard, why do we have to climb it? You can do anything, so why can’t You just make this mountain disappear?”

“Sometimes a mountain can be moved, but others, like this one, must be climbed. It’s for your good.”

“Well, if I have to go over it, can You at least carry me?”

“Sure, I can carry you from time to time.  But I can’t climb this whole mountain for you. You need the strength and wisdom you will gain from climbing it. “

Amalia looked doubtfully at the mountains that seemed to be approaching quickly. “I don’t think I want to go any further. I’m not ready.”

“Yes, you are, or I wouldn’t have brought you here.”

“But I don’t have any climbing gear. I don’t have any food or water or first aid supplies. I don’t have the knowledge to differentiate between good plants from poisonous ones. And I don’t have a weapon to fight off wild animals. I have nothing. Not even hiking boots.”

“You have everything you need. You have Me.”

“But You don’t have a back pack either. What if my sandal strap breaks and I have to travel barefooted. I’ll get blisters, which will probably get infected, and with no medicine, I’ll probably end up losing my feet. Let’s just go back. There must be another way.”

He laughed. “You won’t lose your feet. I am your healer.”

“But what if an animal attacks me while You’re not looking? I have nothing to defend myself with. I don’t want to get hurt. Even though You can heal me, it will surely delay our journey. Let’s go back to the safety of the field.”

“You won’t be hurt as long as you stay near Me. I am your protector.”

Amalia looked at Jesus’ empty hands. Did He have a knife hidden up His sleeve? Or maybe He was planning on finding some sturdy branches to use? “But You don’t have anything, either.”

She thought of another reason not to keep going. “I don’t have any water. And without water purification tablets, I can’t drink the water in any streams we find. I’m going to get dehydrated. And then I’ll get dizzy and weak and confused. I’ll be too sick to go on and end up dying on this mountain.”

He reached for and squeezed her hand. “You won’t die of thirst. I am your provider.”

But what if I’m walking along a path and suddenly find myself on a cliff? My balance is not all that great now. I know I will fall! Can’t we get to the door by going through the field, and completely avoid these mountains?”

He smiled and shook His head. “You will not fall. I am your guide and will keep you away from cliffs.”

No matter what objections Amalia came up with, Jesus seemed amused and had an answer. Evidently He wanted her up that mountain whether she wanted to or not, but that didn’t stop her from trying to talk Him out of it with new reasons as they came to her. She was increasingly dismayed to see that the closer they got to the mountains, the higher and harder and scarier they looked. In fact, she couldn’t even see the tops of the higher ones.

“Don’t worry,” Jesus told her, seeing the worry on her face. “The way is hard, but the reward is more than you can imagine. When we get to the top, you will be so grateful to have made the climb. I can’t wait to celebrate up there with you! However, there is one thing you need to do before we begin.”

“Run the other way?” she asked, looking behind her as if the car would suddenly appear. “This is just a joke, right?”

“Nope, no joke.” He spoke seriously now. “Before we start, you’ll need to make a commitment to follow Me no matter how rough it gets, or how long it takes. That commitment will help you when you think you can’t go on. Do you trust Me? Will you make that commitment?”

Amalia thought about it. She looked up at the mountain, and then down the way they had come. “What if I decide not to go?”

“It’s your choice. Just know this: if you go back, you will never know what you’ll have missed. And since the car is on the other side of this mountain, you will not be able to progress through this haunted house. You will be stuck in that field. As beautiful as it is, do you really want to be stuck there… or go back to the room with the mirrors… or the floorless room… or…”

“Okay, I get the point. It’s go forwards or go nowhere. You did this to me on purpose, didn’t You? You knew before we even entered this haunted house that I would be faced with this decision.”

Jesus winked at her. “And I even know what you’re going to decide.”

Sighing, she resigned herself to her fate. “Okay, if we’re going to die, let’s get it over with.”

Two Mirrors

Once upon a time there was a girl. She wasn’t too different than any other girl. Yet she thought she was, and so she acted like she was.

Other girls were pretty. She thought she was ugly. So she tried to hide whenever she could.

Other girls were fun. She thought she was boring. So she quit playing with others.

Other girls were smart. She thought she was stupid. So she quit sharing her thoughts.

She thought being ugly, boring, and stupid made her repulsive to people. And she tried even harder to disappear from everyone around her.

One day, she discovered she was invisible. No one saw her. No one heard her. She was happy, because now no one would have to endure her presence.

But she was also sad. As she watched people, she watched how they enjoyed each other and wanted to be around each other. And how they loved each other. She wanted to be wanted and loved. Yet, how could anyone want or love someone like her?

One day a friendly voice called to her.

“You can see me?”

“Yes. And I like what I see.”

“You can hear me?”

“Yes. And I like what I hear.”

“How can you like me when I’m so ugly, boring, and stupid?”

“Who told you that?”

“It’s what I see when I look in my mirror.”

“Where did you get that mirror?”

“I made it myself.”

“Can I look at it?”

“Yes, but be careful. Don’t hurt it.”

“It’s a lovely mirror. Strong, and well made.”

“Thank you. It took me a long time to make it.”

“I made a mirror, too. Would you like to look at it?”

“Yes, please. I’ll be careful.”

“Here. And you don’t have to be careful. This mirror won’t break.”

“It’s gorgeous. It’s so shiny; it looks like it is glowing! Who is that beautiful girl in it?”

0310201914 (2)

“That’s you.”

“No, it can’t be. That girl looks nothing like the girl in my mirror.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“Then that must not be me. You must be teasing me. Who is that girl, really?”

“That girl is really you.”

“But what about the one in my mirror?”

“Didn’t you say you made your mirror yourself?”

“Yes.”

“Did you get any help?”

“Well, yes.”

“Who helped you?”

“People around me. But mostly I did it myself.”

“Do you think maybe your mirror might be lying to you?”

“Lie to me? How can that happen? It’s a mirror. Mirrors always show what’s there.”

“Unless they are distorted.”

“You think my mirror is distorted? What about your mirror?”

“Oh, I’m sure my mirror is accurate. No one helped me make it, so there was no chance for it to get distorted.”

“Well, maybe my mirror is not distorted either.”

“That’s for you to decide.”

“How can I decide? Which one do I believe?”

“You can believe mine, or you can believe yours. It’s your choice.”

The girl studied her image in each mirror. She was familiar with the girl in her mirror, but longed to be the girl in the other mirror. She tried to focus on that second girl – the beautiful one – but each time, her gaze returned to her own mirror.

“I like your mirror better. But each time I try to focus on it, my eyes go back to my own.”

“You haven’t really decided yet. Wanting is not the same as making a decision.”

“I’m scared to decide. What if I’m wrong?”

“Trust me. I wouldn’t show you anything that wasn’t true.”

The girl studied both images again. In spite of the fear that seemed to consume her, she made her decision.

“I choose your mirror.”

As she held the new shiny mirror in her hands, she found laying aside her mirror was still hard. She knew it would take time to get used to looking in the shiny mirror instead of hers, but she had decided.

Little by little, as she looked at the beautiful girl in the shiny mirror, she began to think differently about herself. Maybe she wasn’t so different from other girls after all.

Other girls were pretty. The mirror showed her that she was pretty, too. So she stopped hiding as much.

Other girls were fun. She thought maybe she was fun, too. So she began playing with a few people.

Other girls were smart. She thought maybe she was smart, too. So she started sharing her thoughts with everyone around her.

She thought being pretty, fun, and smart was more fun than what she had been. She quit trying to disappear from everyone around her.

She found out… the new, shiny mirror was right.

And as she believed the image in that amazing mirror, so did the people around her. She was wanted, enjoyed, and loved.

She had one last thing to say to the one who gave her the mirror:

“Thank you, Jesus!”

 

 

 

Romans 12:3 TLB  Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.

Romans 12:3 ERV  You must see yourself just as you are. Decide what you are by the faith God has given each of us.

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.”

Dear Little Dancer (from Someone Who Loves You series)

0904191451e

Dear Little Dancer,

You don’t look so sure about this new thing you’re expected to do. Dance? What is that? It seems there’s always something new to learn. But, don’t worry. I can help you learn. With me holding your hand, you’ll soon be able to twirl and jump and even flip! You’re going to have so much fun dancing with me – and I’m going to have even more fun dancing with you! Trust me, take my hand, and let’s dance all night!

Playfully,

Someone Who Loves You

 

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

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.

 

Get Out of Your Boat

0129201222a (2)

Come walk with Me.

Um… You’re walking on water.

Yup, and you can, too. Come on out here.

I will sink. Those waves are bigger than I am, never mind the deep water underneath. And who knows what’s down there?

I will keep you above the water. Come on, it’s okay.

I appreciate Your invitation, but I really should stay in my boat. It’s keeping me safe from the storm.

I will keep you safe. Come out of your boat, and take a walk with Me.

Well, that sounds nice and all, but I have to think about my health. If I don’t worry about doing everything right, I might get sick.

Focus on Me, and let Me keep you well. Come on, we’ll exercise together.

If I’m out there with You, who’s going to worry about making sure there’s enough money in the bank to pay my bills. What if something big happens and I don’t have enough money?

I will supply your needs. Leave your boat, and let’s go on an adventure.

That sounds great, but who will take care of my family and dogs? I have to stay here to make sure their needs are met, too.

I will meet their needs. Come on, you can do it. Come to Me.

But I made this boat super strong. It can protect me from the rough waves.

I’m stronger. Come out here, and be with Me. You will see how strong I am.

I know people can’t really walk on water. Besides, You’re more like a ghost. My hand will go right through Your hand, and I’ll drown.

I will hold you up. You will not drown. Come out of your boat, and dance with Me.

But it doesn’t make sense to trust something I can’t understand instead of trusting something I can see and touch.

You’re thinking is backwards. Trusting the boat doesn’t make sense. It’s just boards nailed together. It can break. It can sink. It’s Me you need to trust. I will never break or sink. Trust Me. Come out here, and stay with Me.

I’m scared.

I know. I am trustworthy. Come out here, and find out.

I’m coming.

Here’s My hand. This is going to be amazing!