Saturday, November 16, 2019

Chutes, But No Ladders

Photo by Gaussenchennai 2019
I dreamed that I was staying in a large city where many themed resort hotels were close together. I thought it would be an interesting outing to travel from one to the next and to explore the sights in each hotel’s lobby and common areas.

There was a tram departing from outside the hotel where I was staying, so I hopped aboard and got off at the next stop, which appeared to be a flight-themed hotel. I entered what seemed to be an airline cabin, with typical passenger seats. As the “plane” took off, I realized that there was no lift-off, only a side-to-side lurching as the cabin sped along a serpentine track.

Once we had stopped, I got out and was surprised to find myself on the platform of what appeared to be an amusement park ride, with open-sided kiddie cars strung together. There was no way back to the plane and no other way off the platform, so I scrunched into one of the cars and grabbed onto the rail just in time as it launched into motion.

After a very short horizontal distance, the ride plunged downward at breakneck speed, so fast that the pit of my stomach jammed into my throat. Finally it stopped, slamming me forward, and I doubled over for a moment before I could stagger to my feet and out of the car.

Breathless and shaking, I realized I had been gone from the hotel way too long and needed to return as soon as possible. But there seemed to be no options other than to get back in another kiddie car, which also appeared to be on a steep track even further downward and away from the hotel. There were no escalators, elevators, or even stairways to return to the higher level where I had left my hotel.

I was relieved to see a uniformed man whom I assumed to be the transit police.

“Is this the subway?” I asked, pointing to the kiddie car, then realized how ridiculous that sounded.

He rolled his eyes, then feigned concern that only came across as patronizing condescension.

“Ma’am, where is it that you want to go?”

“Back to my hotel.”

“Which one?”

I realized in horror that I had no clue about the name of the hotel where I had been staying. He rattled off a list of names, none of which sounded familiar, until he finally suggested “Blue Hotel.”

“That’s it!” I exclaimed. “How do I get there?”

But he only shrugged his shoulders and bustled away, leaving me to awaken in a panic.

As I considered the meaning of the dream, I remembered a trip to Las Vegas during which my husband and I enjoyed taking the monorail from one hotel to the next and walking around each hotel, admiring the unique décor, architecture, attractions and shopping of each one. We had joked that it was like walking around the world, traveling from New York, to Paris, to Venice (Bellagio), and ancient Rome (Caesar’s Palace), all in a single day.

But we knew that we were still in Las Vegas and hadn’t really gone anywhere, for each hotel was a cleverly staged illusion to lure the visitor (and potential gambler) to spend more time there. For the same reason, there are no clocks or even windows within these hotels, so that the gambler loses contact with time and even with reality as he keeps trying to beat the house.

As born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) who have been saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we must be careful not to be distracted by earthly, temporal things and thereby lose sight of our eternal destiny (Colossians 3:1-2).

My husband and I don’t gamble, and there was nothing wrong in enjoying the beautiful, lavish and picturesque interiors of the hotels we visited, but if we had lingered too long, it might have become a distraction from our real purpose for going to Las Vegas, which was to share our dance ministry at a hotel where we had been invited to perform.

Leaving the hotel in the dream proved to be disastrous, as each segment of the bone-rattling journey brought me further away from where I needed to be, to the point that I felt I could not return. Each conveyance was merely an imitation of true forms of transportation. These reminded me of the train in that famous episode of “Twilight Zone” that always circled back to where it began, preventing the protagonists from escaping, for it was merely a toy in a dollhouse village owned by a giant child.

In the board game, “Chutes and Ladders,” players advance up the ladders based on the roll of the dice, but then without warning may slide far down a chute. In the dream I was actually trying to return to my starting point, but each ride carried me not only further away, but also further down. The ride was deceptively level at the beginning, then suddenly vanished down a dangerous precipice, reminding me that we are most likely to slip and fall when we are prideful of our good standing (Proverbs 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:12).

Ultimately I was so far away that I no longer even remembered the name of the place where I was staying. The world and its power structure are of no help in returning us to God’s plan for us (Matthew 6:24), as was evident in the dream by the lack of any way to travel upward, and the indifference of the transit policeman.

On our Christian journey to the mountaintop of heavenly rewards, we sometimes fall backward and slide down, but the climb is always still there, waiting for us to resume it.  Thankfully, our brothers and sisters in Christ can help us struggle to our feet, and God Himself is there with an outstretched arm, just waiting for us to take the first step (Ecclesiastes 4:9; Proverbs 24:16; Psalm 136:12; Galatians 6:1).

The hotel where I started my dream journey was called the Blue Hotel, the color perhaps signifying royal garments of the priesthood and furnishings of God’s temple (Exodus 26-28; 35-39; Numbers 4,15; etc.). These may symbolize the heavenly places where we are seated in Christ even while walking this earth (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6).

In common parlance, the phrase “blue skies” refers to smooth sailing and good times without interference from storms. As Christians, our sure hope (Hebrews 6:19) in eternal life in Heaven gives us spiritual blue skies, namely the peace thatpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and joy in His salvation (Psalm 21:1; Isaiah 61:10).

Yet the word “blue” can also mean sad or depressed, for even as Christians we are not immune from sorrow. Even Christ Himself was a man of sorrows, well acquainted by grief, yet by His stripes, or suffering, we are healed (Isaiah 53:3-5). The only other Scripture reference to “blue” is in Proverbs 3:20:

The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.

This verse is a sober reminder that when we stray, our loving Father God will chastise us, sometimes through His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12), but with scourging or physical pain if the spoken Word is ineffective (Hebrews 12:6).

May we set our affection and sights on heavenly things above, and not be brought down by the things of this world! May we be vigilant to hear and do the will of our Father, ever climbing upward until He takes us home, and seeking His strength and guidance when our errors bring us to the pit of the valley!      

© 2019 Laurie Collett


Saturday, November 9, 2019

Golden Coins

I recently dreamed that my husband Richard and I were performing our dance ministry at a hotel in Las Vegas. On our way out of the hotel, Richard grabbed some loose change from his pocket and threw them into a slot machine before I could protest, as neither of us gamble. To our surprise, he not only hit the jackpot, but the payout was in gold coins. 

These appeared to be of several denominations, but on closer inspection, they looked more like subway tokens. A taxi would be picking us up in a few moments to go to the airport, and I was concerned about where to hide the coins so that no one would see them or attempt to steal them. I slid them inside my sock, where they made a painful lump under the ball of my foot, causing me to wince with every step. 

Once in line at airport security, I worried that they would not let us pass with the coins. But it would be even worse to try to hide them, so out from my sock they came. As I placed them in a small tray to go through the conveyor belt, I was relieved when the inspector just waved me through. 

Back in my sock they went, but after a long flight and finally arriving home, I realized that all the coins had vanished! 

I awoke in a panic and considered the symbolism of the dream. The world promises us an easy return on our investment – quick profit from a hot stock tip, winning the lottery, or even finding fame and fortune through a “lucky” break. The trouble with these get-rich-quick schemes is that often they attempt to circumvent hard work, playing by the rules, trusting God to provide for us, and honoring Christian ideals (Psalm 37:25, Matthew 6:8; Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Gambling is legal in some states and international waters, and seems to hurt no one. Yet by participating in gambling, we are indirectly supporting an industry that preys on the addiction of some to this compulsive behavior, often leading to their financial and emotional ruin. The gambler may at first seem to hit a lucky streak, but in the end, the house always wins. The callous soldiers gambling for Jesus’ garments at the foot of His cross, while He suffered and died, may be a poignant illustration of how God views this behavior (Matthew 27:35). 

Satan may dangle shiny objects before us to get our attention, appealing to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), just as he did with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:6). He minimizes the risk of what seems to be a trivial act of disobedience, convinces us that we are strong enough to handle it, and maximizes the imagined gain, for he is the father of lies (John 8:44). 

In the dream, the impulsive act of gambling with a small amount of money led to a huge gain, but at what cost?  The sense of elation over the win quickly disappeared, just as we may enjoy the pleasures of sin, but only for a season (Hebrews 11:25), before we must face the consequences (Romans 6:23). First there was the constant irritation and physical pain involved in hiding the coins, then the anxiety that they would be stolen or cause us to be harmed, and finally the sense of loss and disappointment when they vanished. 

And was the profit even worth the risk in the first place? The coins appeared to be gold, but may have actually been mere subway tokens. These are of little monetary value, and have only one use. They work to get us from one station to another, but in the end, we are still underground and far from the light of day. We can’t use them to stay in a hotel, board a plane, or engage in any transactions in the “real” world above ground. 

Satan may deceive us into thinking we are getting ahead, but if we accept his rewards and follow his schemes, we are still trapped in an endless maze of tunnels that ultimately leads only to hell (Luke 12:5). Why do people gamble with their own soul? What reward of monetary gain, fame, or power could possibly be worth risking your eternal destiny? (Matthew 16:26) 

Satan may distract us from following God’s true purpose for our life (Hebrews 12:1). Even once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we can lose out on eternal rewards by seeking earthly gain instead of eternal treasure (Luke 12:16-21). 

Job was a man of great material wealth who feared God and trusted Him in all circumstances. When his wealth disappeared in an instant, he realized that God is not only the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17), but the One Who can redistribute it according to His purposes (Job 1:21). 

Money is a gift that God entrusts to us to provide for our needs, the needs of our family and community, and especially to return to Him through our church and through supporting missions (Genesis 14:20; Malachi 3:8-10; Philippians 4:10-17). If we are poor stewards, no longer faithful to God’s plan, He will reapportion that money to better stewards (Luke 12:42; 1 Corinthians 4:2). Even worse, the love of money, meaning to desire wealth as an idol we hold dearer than God, is the root of all evil, causing some to wander from their faith and to pierce themselves with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10). 

How much better to store up our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:20), devoting our time, talents and treasure to serving God rather than to foolishly chase earthly gain! We know God rewards us richly through spiritual blessings on earth and watches carefully over our heavenly treasure. 

The worries attached to financial responsibilities, the anxiety over changes in fortune, and the sorrow of monetary loss can be replaced by the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), the joy in sharing God’s love with others, and the sure hope of eternal rewards (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) as Jesus says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)

© 2019 Laurie Collett