Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Trust in the LORD With All Your Heart – Journal Illustration
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Kayla’s Story, An Allegory: Chapter 4 Which Way?
Kayla took a hesitant step toward the light. It seemed crazy to go that way. She could not see how it would lead her to the park, or how the light could remove the mountain of dirt so she could get home. In her mind, all she could imagine was ending back at the pile of deceptively sturdy dirt. Light or no light, that dirt existed and she had no way to get past it. As for the park, maybe she should turn around and go to the park regardless of the shadows. At least she knew her way in that direction. Besides, important people were waiting on her. Well, maybe not waiting anymore since she was already late. But they might still be counting on her to show up and do something.
Kayla turned and headed toward the shadows. She had only taken a few steps when she felt the pull of the sun on her back. She wanted to turn around. Her heart cried out to face the sun. But her mind was demanding to make it to where she thought she should be. Determined, she forced her feet to keep moving. The limping made for slow progress, so she had only gone about 50 yards when she stopped again. A new thought had popped into her mind. What if someone had reported the dirt and the city had sent a work crew to remove it? What if her way home was open now? With her injuries, she wouldn’t be able to do anything at the park, and she’d only end up inconveniencing someone. Better to go on home now.
Turning once again, Kayla’s heart soared as she limped toward the light. The amazing brilliance was almost tangible, and she wanted to dance in its presence. Instead, she had to settle to soaking in the warmth of the life-giving light as she slowly limped home. When she reached the bus stop, she sat down to rest. She thought about the old man and wondered where he was, hoping that he would be on the next bus to stop. She’d love to thank him for his words of wisdom. He had been so right. Facing the sunrise of new beginnings was so much better than the sunset of dark endings.
A bus pulled up, complete with all its pfssssting and hissing and diesel fumes. The door opened to let a man off, but it wasn’t the man she hoped for. She smiled anyway as he looked in her direction. His eyes seemed to see past her as if she wasn’t there, then he walked away. Kayla frowned, ready to call out something unkind, but she felt a sense of “don’t do it” rise up in her heart. That was weird. She had never felt anything like that before. It had to have something to do with the light. The light was so good, maybe she was supposed to be good, too.
Rest time over, Kayla carefully got to her feet. Although she could kind of walk on her right foot, her ankle still throbbed. Maybe going back home wasn’t the best idea after all. The park was closer, and she could get a ride home. That way she wouldn’t have to walk as far, and she wouldn’t have to deal with the dirt, should it still be there. She hated the thought of walking away from the light, but felt she had little choice. The less she walked on her ankle, the better. Besides, walking away would just be temporary. Once she got home, she would be able to face the sun again. Mind made up, she headed west.
However with each step, the call of the sun got stronger. She could feel it pulling at her heart as if it were alive – as if it were a good friend begging her not to go away. She tried to ignore it, but it found its way past every mental block she put up. Tears began to fall, unbidden, as she fought to keep going. She was doing the right thing. She was doing what she needed to take care of herself. She was not really rejecting the light, just not facing it for a little while. But try as she might to convince herself, she knew these excuses fell flat.
Giving up, she turned back around and headed toward the light that was still calling her. Maybe she should trust that if the light was calling her that way, then it would take care of her. As she waited to cross the street, she determined not to change her mind again. With the unspoken promise of the light, she would make it home. Or at least to the dirt pile, if it was still there, in which case maybe the light would reveal a way around it she had not seen before. It was worth a shot.
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:23)
Amusement Park: Swinging Boat
Amusement Park: Swinging Boat
“Where do you want to sit,” Jesus asked Amalia.
“It doesn’t matter,” Amalia responded with a huge smile. “We’re on the boat. That’s all I care about.”
Jesus smiled back. “Just being on the boat might be enough for some. But I know you. Once we get moving, you’re going to start comparing. So you may as well do that now.”
Amalia looked at the rows of seats. Half were on her right, the other half were on her left. Both sides were facing each other. It looked like they would all get the same ride, swinging both frontwards and backwards. So what did Jesus mean about comparing them?
She imagined sitting in the first row on her right. She pictured the boat swinging forward as high as it could go, and where she would be at its greatest height. Then she pictured how high the last row would go. And she understood. That first row would not rise near as high in the sky as that last row. If she chose the first row, she would not experience as much of the swing as she would if she sat on the last row.
“That’s it, isn’t it?” she asked Jesus. “By choosing where I sit, I can control how much of the swing I experience.”
“Exactly. So, where do you want to sit?”
“I want to experience this ride to its fullest. I choose the back row!”
“I was hoping you would say that. Come on.”
Jesus led her past all the seats on the right side until they got to the last row. “Here you go. This is going to be great!”
Amalia’s anticipation increased as the boat began filling with people. Finally, the ride attendee announced the boat was full, and closed the gate with a clang. He pushed a button, and the boat began its first swing.
At first the swings were small, and Amalia could barely feel the gentle rise and fall. But the swings grew stronger and rose higher on every pass. Soon Amalia felt the need to hold on as her seat became perpendicular to the ground. The only thing keeping her from falling was her seatbelt.
It was exhilarating! The delicious anticipation as she climbed higher, the momentary lull at the very top, and then the stomach-dropping fall made this ride all that she hoped it would be. She laughed as she rose, and screamed in delightful fear at each free fall, knowing she was safe with Jesus.
After several swings, she noticed a difference. Being able to see the top of the rise, or the bottom of the fall, when she was moving forward made the gut-wrenching thrill easier to handle than when she rose or fell backwards. Not being able to see where she was going made it harder to tell when the rise would turn into a fall, or when a fall was finally over and she began to rise again. So even though she knew that she was secure in the boat, and that no fall would last indefinitely, she preferred the thrill of seeing over the alarm of not seeing.
“Just like when you’re walking with Me,” came the familiar soft whisper in her heart. “You love when you can see where you’re going, both when things are going well and you’re heading for great heights, as well as when things fall apart and you can see how much longer before you rise again. But you’re not so fond of experiencing the same things without the help of your sight. Being able to see the WHEN makes the WHAT easier. If you only faced one direction, you wouldn’t get the whole experience. Just as this boat ride includes ups and downs in both directions, regardless of the seat you choose, your life also includes ups and downs with and without sight. Both the seeing and the not seeing builds your trust in different ways, making your faith complete in a way not possible with just one. And just as you are secure with Me on this boat, you are secure with Me in your life. Once you understand that, you can enjoy the walk with Me no matter which way you’re facing.”
Amanda nodded. This ride was turning out to be one of her favorites. But would it be if she didn’t have Jesus by her side? If she didn’t know He was keeping her safe through every move, both on this ride and in her life?
She was glad she would never have to find out.
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Philippians 4:11-12 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound, in any and every circumstance. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
Amusement Park: Waiting on Jesus
Amusement Park: Waiting on Jesus
“There it is!” Amalia pointed to the large wooden boat that was swinging from one side to the other in large arcs. “I’ve always wanted to try this ride!’
“It looks fun,” Jesus said. “But there’s something I have to do first. Sit here on this bench and wait for Me.” He pointed to a small bench just outside the entrance gate.
“Sure,” Amalia agreed. She sat backwards on the bench, facing the boat. It was huge! She wondered what it would feel like to ride it. To feel the thrill of the rise and the adrenaline rush of the fall, both frontwards and backwards. Would she scream like so many others? Or would she laugh? It couldn’t be as bad as a roller coaster, so she thought she’d probably laugh. After all, it was a big solid boat, moving in a predictable manner, and not nearly as high as the roller coaster.
The best thing about it – there was no line! It seemed everyone who wanted to ride it was on already on it- because it was packed! There was probably less than a handful of empty seats. Amalia sighed in pleasure. She had never gotten to be first on a ride. Besides, she hated feeling crowded, so the anticipation of riding this boat without having to sit shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of strangers added to her excitement. This was going to be great!
As she watched the boat move, she noticed it wasn’t rising quite as high as it had a few moments before. The ride must be ending soon. And still no one in line. Amalia looked around for Jesus. Where was He? There was still a little while before the boat ride would fully end so Amalia decided not to worry about it. Jesus would be there before it was time to board.
Before she could turn back towards the boat, a group of boys caught her attention. They were laughing and pushing each other. One boy pointed to the boat, and within minutes they heading in her direction. Oh no! Amalia glanced at the gate. Should she get up to make sure she remained first in line? Jesus had said to wait on the bench, but the gate was almost within touching distance. Surely waiting there would be just as good. But what if He meant what He said? She had agreed to wait on the bench. Would leaving it be disobedience? Before she could make up her mind, it was too late. The rowdy boys were at the gate. The best she could be was fourth now. Disappointed, she consoled herself with the reminder that there were so many seats on that boat, it would still feel empty even with the group of boys. Being fourth wouldn’t change that.
A married couple with three children walked up.
“Excuse me,” said the woman. “Are you in line?”
Amalia shook her head. “No, not yet. I’m waiting on someone.”
“Okay, just making sure.” The woman motioned to her kids. “Go ahead, she’s not in line.”
Right behind them came another couple, and then a group of girls. Amalia’s stomach began to tighten. Where were all these people coming from? This was supposed to be her ride, not theirs. She was supposed to be first. She was supposed to ride an almost empty boat. Jesus knew she didn’t like crowds. Why was he delaying his return? Maybe she should go ahead and get in line before it gets any longer. No, Jesus said to wait. On the bench. And she was going to do that. Maybe no one else would come. There were still a lot more seats than people. It will be okay.
The boat was barely rocking now. Soon it would stop and Amalia would… would what? What would she do if Jesus still hadn’t returned? Get on without Him? Miss the ride? No, she trusted Him. He said it would be a fun ride, and He told her to wait. So she would wait.
The waiting became even harder as other people joined the line, now about twenty yards long. Twenty yards of people who got ahead of her. Amalia felt envious. They didn’t have to wait. They could get in line whenever they wanted to. And here she was just sitting on a bench. She felt left out, and a little silly. She wanted to ride. Jesus said she could ride. Did He really say to stay on the bench? Or did He just say to wait, and the bench was her idea? Why couldn’t she wait for Him in line? It wasn’t like she would board without Him or anything. Besides, He said He’d be back. Did it really matter if she was on the bench or in line when He returned?
Amalia’s attention was drawn to the behavior of those waiting. Many were minding their own business, but there were some that weren’t. The rowdy group of boys next to her was calling out rude comments to the group of girls. Amalia could see the girls blush as they tried to ignore them. Amalia felt bad for the girls, and wondered why no one was saying anything to make the boys stop. Further down the line a young girl was pulling on her parents, begging not to have to ride the big boat, but the parents seemed angry and were ridiculing her fear. That didn’t seem right to Amalia either. It actually seemed cruel. She was glad when one man called out to the parents. But instead of interceding for the child, the man began calling the parents names which soon escalated into a loud argument. People around them began to take sides, and Amalia grew tense as a fight seemed likely to break out at any moment. A quick movement caught her attention and she looked away from the imminent fight just in time to see a pickpocket making his way through the crowd. How does he get away with that? Can’t people feel someone else’s hand in their pockets? What if she had been a victim earlier to a pickpocket and she had not noticed? Quickly she felt her back pocket, and was relieved to feel the bulge of her wallet. Other sounds of discord quickly claimed her attention. Some people began grumbling and complaining about having to wait so long in smelly crowd on such a hot day. Others were making snide comments about what other people were wearing, or the way they looked.
Maybe it would be better to wait on the bench. She didn’t want to be part of that crowd. She turned back to the boat and watched as it slowly settled until it came to a complete stop at the bottom. People piled out, some talking enthusiastically about their experience; others white faced – or green faced – hurrying to get away. When the boat was empty, the people in line began to board it. Amalia looked around. Where was Jesus? It was time to get on, and she didn’t want to miss it. But He was nowhere in sight.
She looked at the line, trying to estimate the number of people. Would they fill up that boat before Jesus returned? And even more people were joining them by the minute. Torn between the desire to join the line in order to ensure a ride and the command to wait on the bench, Amalia wanted to cry in frustration. Where was Jesus? Why was He not back already? Had she heard Him wrong? He said the ride would be fun – but what if He meant fun for her, and not for them? Maybe she was supposed to get on it by herself. It was even harder watching all those people get what she wanted. They didn’t even deserve it. Their behavior should have gotten them kicked out of line. But there they were, gleefully filling up the seats that Amalia coveted.
Amalia clenched her eyes, trying to squeeze back her tears. It just wasn’t fair. Her thoughts drifted to her Friend. He had had to face some unfairness Himself. And much worse than she was facing. Feeling remorse, Amalia silently asked God for forgiveness. If He wanted her to wait, she would wait. What He wanted was more important than what she wanted. She would trust His timing. And if she missed this ride, then so be it. She would rather have Him than a ride. Even a ride as great as this one ride. She quit fretting about all the people filling up her boat, especially the mean ones, and the ones she had seen cut in line. Her priorities once again in their right place, peace filled her heart. She opened her eyes and began praying for the people as they rushed past her.
A few minutes later Jesus walked up. “Are you ready?” He asked her.
“Yes, but I don’t think there’ll be any room left.”
“Sure there is. Watch.” He pointed to a couple of security guards walking towards them. A shout from the boat caught their attention, and they pushed their way through the line to investigate. Soon more shouting erupted, and more security guards came running. Before Amalia knew what was happening, the guards had ordered everyone off the boat.
“Let’s go,” Jesus said warmly. He took Amalia’s hand and led her past the people lining up along the fence towards the boat. She could hear snippets of emotional responses to the guards’ questions as people justified their behaviors and pointed their fingers at each other. Jesus gently pushed Amalia up the ramp and into the boat. She looked around in amazement. It was empty! Other people began to board after her, the ones let go by the guards, but she had been first!
“Where do you want to sit” Jesus asked with a smile.
Ps 37:7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Ps 37: 34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
Lamentations 3:24-26 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul. “Therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Hebrews 6:15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.
Micah 7:7 But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
Deut 10:12 … what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Matt 22:37-39 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Dear Little Water Splasher (from Someone Who Loves You series)
Dear Little Water Splasher,
I knew you were out of your comfort zone. The river is much larger than the small inflatable pools you’re used to. And the water is continually moving; the constant flow of the waves might have been a bit unsettling. But the worst seems to have been the inability to see through the water. Did you think dangerous things were hiding in there? Did you think the muddy bottom would suck you deep into it, never letting you go? Or did you think there was no bottom at all? You had two choices, and I’m delighted you chose trust over fear. As long as you were being held, you were able to ignore the unknown that scared you and go willingly into something new. By trusting the strong arms that held you securely, you had great fun interacting with the water. Do you know something? Life is like that river. It’s big, constantly moving, and contains many unknowns. You can remain in your comfort zone and stay distant from it out of fear, or allow yourself to be carried out of your comfort zone and into a new adventure, knowing you’ll be secure in the arms that carry you there. Splash all you want, my little duck. You are safe.
Someone Who Loves You
Psalm 63:8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
Isaiah 41:13 For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not. I am the one who helps you.”
Psalm 89:13 You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high is your right hand.
Do you hear God speaking to you in these letters? If so, it’s no coincidence. As I write to my new granddaughter, I can hear God speaking to me. And my prayer is that you can also hear Him speaking to you for He loves us even more than I love my granddaughter.
Amusement Park: 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?
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?
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!”
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.”
“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?
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?”
“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?
“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?”
“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.”
“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.
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!
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 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.