Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Rollercoasters!
Ever since I was about 12 years old I have loved riding rollercoasters. When I began enjoying them in the late 1970’s and early 80’s the “new” ones were made of steel, but the ones that had been around a while were framed in wood. In fact, the first one I remember riding; The Hurricane, was of the wooden variety. It was at an amusement park, Circus World that was owned by Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Baily Circus and was located in Haines City, Florida. In my memory I am sure that particular coaster looms larger than it ever did in reality, but to my 12-year-old mind it was humongous! Because we were visiting the park in the off season, I was literally able to get off the ride’s exit and walk back around to the entrance and only had to wait about five minutes before I was once again seated on that train of terror and excitement ready to blast out of the station once again. In my mind, I can still hear the clack-clack-clack as the cars ascended the initial incline to begin our invigorating decent into the awaiting curves and smaller rises and falls that would continue to propel us forward and seemingly all too soon back into the station where we would come to an abrupt halt. I can also remember the sea sickness that 15 plus circuits on The Hurricane produced that evening. Later as a teenager I would ride the steel coasters located at Darien Lake Fun Park in the southern tier of New York State. The fun experience those provided for was different. They could do things the wooden ones would never accomplish. Steel roller coasters like The Viper could fly upside down as they did loop-to-loops and corkscrews. They were infinitely more daring but their smooth operation lacked an element of excitement the older wooden ones possessed. One was more defying of the laws of physics, while the other made up for it in a lack of security. In order to accomplish all of the upside down stunts, the passengers on steel coasters have to be locked tightly in place. Their tamer wooden counterparts however, simply held its passengers onto its benches with the assistance of a loosely fitting steel pipe that allowed them to be slung from side to side from the G-forces created by abrupt directional changes.
As I look back on all of the roller coasters I have been on, too many to recall all of them, a few stand out for various reasons. Space Mountain at Disney because it is housed inside a building. Superman, at Darien Lake that my daughter Jill and I rode 8 times successively one evening. The initial drop on that one was seemingly strait down. My daughter Missy and I rode Batman at Six Flags where the riders were strapped in laying down for the duration of the ride while being flipped repeatedly face up, then face down. The most recent one I was on was the kind you hang under. My wife Lynn and I rode the Great Bear at Hershey Park late at night just before the park closed. I wasn’t sure Lynn would ever stop looking at me and repeating “That was crazy!” after we got back onto solid ground. It was crazy. Crazy fun! As I share these thoughts with you I can’t wait for my next experience on a roller coaster…I am convinced that I will never be too old to appreciate them.
Last week I asked myself and someone I was talking with why we enjoy roller coasters. We decided that it was because while the element of danger existed, you always really understand when you get on one that you will safely get back off of it just a few minutes later. In other words, with a few infinitesimally small exceptions…no matter what the coaster looks like…you know in the end it will be all right. That level of security allows a person to actually enjoy the presence of dangers one would normally do any and everything possible to avoid.
So why don’t we look at the roller coaster of life the same way? Why is it that the things that we encounter cause us so much angst? Why is it that when we are made aware of the things going on around us in this old world we allow our hearts to be so troubled? Is it that we are not as firmly rooted in the belief that it will all be ok in the end as we would like to be? Those roller coasters I was speaking so fondly of a few minutes ago sometimes don’t seem so dangerous as do the hills and valleys, the twists and turns of our very lives. We get on a roller coaster trusting that the engineers that designed it did all of the stress calculations correctly. We believe that the steel was tested at the factories as it should have been. We place our faith in maintenance crews we never see, who we don’t know and who don’t know us, to care enough for our safety that they perform all of the preventive maintenance necessary to keep the ride safe. And yet life seems scary for us at times. Why is that?
Philippians 4:6-7 in the New Living Translation reads: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. This scripture tells us that taking our concerns about life to God is the first part of a two-part formula that allows for us to be at peace in a tumultuous time. Why? Because He is the only one more powerful than any difficulty we face. He provides the strength beyond the stresses of this life no matter what the ups and downs and twists and turns may be. The second part of the formula is equally important…thank Him for all He has done. Gratefulness does something spectacular to our minds. We are not capable of thinking in opposite directions at the same time. What I mean by that is that we cannot be scared out of our minds and at total peace in the same instant. Gratefulness is the bridge that takes us from scared to serene. When we are expressing our gratitude to God as we are instructed to in these verses we invoke an incredible power that can give rise to a super lift in our peace. Because God is omnipresent and eternal He is everywhere all the time, past, present, and future. We can therefore be grateful for what He has done, for what he is now doing, and for what He has already done in the future that we are not yet aware of, but that has always been settled for Him. We can sit back and enjoy the ride because though it still must traverse track we have not yet seen, it is track that he has already laid, tested and approved. Romans 8:28 and 29 says this: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Proverbs 3:5 and 6 tells us to Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Joshua 1:9 goes on to say, This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Finally, we can rest in the words of our Savior Jesus Christ. It is recorded in John 16:33 that He said; I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
We can trust Him to know what is ahead, to have decided it will all be used for our good, and to empower us because He has already overcome it all. Life is a roller coaster. Trusting in the keeper of that life is what affords us the peace to make it a blessing to be a part of.
So now, trusting in the One who holds your life in His capable and loving hands…Go be Awesome!