Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Who thought it was a good idea to sit here in the front row? My stomach feels like a thousand butterflies are fighting to get out. I had a feeling that this was going to happen when I was standing in line. 

 When I was young I had heard about the Leap-The-Dips, a roller coaster built in 1902 at Lakemont Park in Altoona,  Pennsylvania and it sounded like such great fun, I had always wanted to experience that. But after standing in line for some time at this newer, higher, more modern roller coaster in Ohio, seeing how high the structure was, my resolve was starting to weaken. Now, in a front row seat, looking ahead at the tracks climbing skyward, reaching almost to the puffy clouds overhead it seemed, I wished that I could jump out of the car and run back to the ice cream stand that we had just passed.
I consoled myself that the Leap-The-Dips had survived for many years and I hadn't heard of anyone getting hurt badly. Before I could ruminate and build the level of fear any further, the car had filled and we started to roll slowly, clank, clank,…. clack, clack… and my heart was echoing that rhythm, beat, beat,... beat beat... inching our way up above the midway, the entire amusement park appearing below. Just when I wondered if the car would make the summit, suddenly the bottom dropped out and we rocketed down the other side of the coaster, going faster and faster, ears filled with screams of those on board, the funny, queasy feeling in the stomach, me not knowing whether to laugh, scream or cry and with a wrenching jerk we bottomed out and started up the next hill, heading towards another adventurous descent and a sharp curve at the bottom.

Thinking back, I am glad that I experienced that ride and a few other similar rides in following years. It was a great preparation for life. It’s funny how similar many of life’s experiences can be to those roller coaster rides, the ups and downs the fear and exhilaration, the moments of expectation and anticipation sometimes followed by fear and regret, that we face as we go through life.

Many of us can relate to that roller coaster ride. There are so many examples of the ups and downs that we face every day... the abrupt stock market fluctuations, perhaps our personal finances, strained relationships among countries in the world, our relationships with family and friends, or seemingly serious health situations involving our loved ones. Just as a roller coaster works because of gravity, a force that pulls things down, most often just when they are at the height of their climb, there is a sudden downward pull which frightens, discourages and at the least causes abrupt and sometimes extreme changes in our circumstances, our relationships and general quality of life.

At one time as I was working in an automotive manufacturing company.  The plant where my data center was located was an automotive stamping plant and this particular plant manager was being honored by the Corporation for excellent profitability, productivity and safety numbers.   Sitting in his office that day I congratulated him for the recognition and he told me, “Pat, in this business, when things look really good on paper they’re not as good as they look. And when our plant looks bad on paper it’s not really as bad as it looks.” And isn’t life like that?!!

That to me was helpful and I think of that often. That roller coaster, that juxtaposition of happiness and sorrow, of exhilaration and fear, of confidence and doubt are extremes which should be smoothed out by a calmer sense of what’s really going on in life. 

As I go back to my Personal User Manual, the Bible, I find such calming examples of how others in history have actually been able to smooth out the bumps and see life in a more spiritual context, see that relying on a spiritual view of life, as opposed to the discouraging and disappointing views that matter gives us, can solve our problems in practical ways. 

Christ Jesus was a great calming influence to his disciples and to others who were with him. In the midst of a storm at sea, the height of fear, when his disciples were sure that tragedy was imminent and Jesus was asleep, they awakened him and he immediately calmed the storm. To me, his action calmed their thoughts, removed their fear, as when a young child is fearful during the night and the father or mother goes into the bedroom to reassure them that all is well and that they are safe. 

In instance after instance, Jesus demonstrated in practical examples that the roller coaster of events in life can be smoothed out by reliance on God, our spiritual source, to provide food, drink, health, sanity, life where their opposites appeared to be. His greeting was usually, “Peace be unto you.” 

Another Biblical example was an occasion when the King of Syria was very upset with the prophet Elijah and sent a great number of men, horses and chariots to find Elijah and bring him back to the king. Elijah’s servant was very afraid as he awakened to see that they were surrounded by the king’s army. But, Elijah, a prophet that trusted in God’s care and protection reassured his servant. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."    II Kings 6: 14

I am sure many have prayed to understand, as I have, 'What can I do to place myself on a more even keel? How can I experience more consistency, more harmony, less upheaval?'     Now we may not be surrounded by chariots and horses, but what if we could see the serene, calm picture of spiritual thought,  could see that the storm we are facing can be stilled, the multitudes of our needs can be fed, the illness healed, the tears turned to laughter, the turbulence smoothed by the calm abiding? How can we be a “God listener?"   See through the fog?  

Recent events in my own personal experience have reinforced the conviction that we can indeed slow down the coaster, quiet the fear, feel confidence and trust by turning to God for guidance. My solution is to turn to the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, a Bible companion used by people of many religions.

One of my favorite Bible “calmers” is found in Psalms 91.

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday."        I like to add here, “Nor for the roller coaster of emotion”!!!

When our thought is safely cloistered within that “secret place” where we are listening to God’s thoughts for us, quietly contemplating our oneness with God, our eternal Father, Creator, the source of all being, we can relax, get off of the coaster.

Mary Baker Eddy, an influential American author, teacher, and religious leader, noted for her groundbreaking ideas about spirituality and health, which she named Christian Science, counseled this: "Man is not a pendulum, swinging between evil and good, joy and sorrow, sickness and health, life and death."      "Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously." * 

We can turn the roller coaster into a gentle carousel, smooth the ups and downs, listen to the calliope playing a cheerful melody as we feel God’s calming reassurance.


Anonymous said...

Knowing the roller coaster of a ride that you have been on recently, I can only say "Amen" to the understanding that God underlies it all, whether or not we can fathom His will.

Patrick Collins said...

Thank you Leah!! I love your thoughts about the Psalm and applying it directly and specifically!! Thanks for your thoughtful comments!