My favorite thing occurred for a week at the beginning of June every year, as I was growing up. The Firemen’s Annual Carnival! Oh my, there was so many trucks that would pull into Leechburg, Pennsylvania hauling trailers with rides that had to be constructed, food vendors would come from all over, there were many games of chance, games of a certain skill, and an area for animals, and even pony rides!
I remember loving to ride the ferris wheel with my Mom and Dad, and when we would get stopped at the very top, it seemed that you could see the whole town as we rocked back and forth. My Dad would take me on the bumper cars, and even let me drive! We would go on the Whip which was an oval-shaped ride filled with cars with high backs that you would sit it and hold 2-3 people. It would go slowly, until it came to one of the curved oval ends, and then the chair would ‘whip’ around the bend and your head would go flying! My very favorite ride would end up being the Tilt-A-Whirl. It had some big seats with high backs and would hold maybe 4-5 people. There was a bar that came down onto the laps of the people who were seated in the car, and there was also a bar to hold onto. The cars were attached to a revolving platform that would rotate, and cause each car to spin to the right and then to the left, depending on the tilt of the platform moving and the platform would go up and down. The movement would cause you to slide from one end of the seat to the other as the big car would change course. That definitely was a ride you didn’t want to go on if you just ate!
I remember the year that my height was finally taller than the requirement of maybe 36-40″ to get on the tilt-a-whirl. My eagerness soared as I found out that I was allowed to ride it. My Dad and I stood in line, much longer than my patience held out! Since it went round and round, my Dad told me to look for a focal point or something to catch my line of sight, each time we went around and that would prevent me from getting so dizzy. That took some practice, that focal point thing. When you’re spinning so fast, it’s hard to pick out something stationary to look at for a split second, but because I wanted to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl so many times, I was able to master the art of identifying a focal point.
The food at the carnival was amazing! There were funnel cakes, hot dogs and saurkraut, candy apples, pizza, popcorn, hot roasted peanuts, and my very favorite thing – cotton candy. It really resembled cotton that was whirred and spinned around a paper cone. It was all sugar, but it just melted in your mouth. The stand always had bags of cotton candy hung up on the posts that were made earlier, but to watch them spin and twist it around the paper cone somehow made it taste better. It always made your fingers sticky.
Saturday night of the Carnival was always the focal point of the week with fireworks that would blast high into the sky and explode into different designs and colors. There sometimes would be loud booms, lights flashing, a certain smell that came with fireworks, probably because of the smoke. My neck would always hurt from looking up high in the sky as they were going off, but it was always so much fun. Everybody would say ‘oooo’ and ‘ahhhh’ each time one would go off. After the fireworks display, they would raffle off a bicycle that you had to buy tickets for. I remember one year in particular, I was about nine years old and as the man with the microphone read the winning ticket number, I could barely contain myself when I looked at my ticket, and shouted ‘that’s MEEEE’! The bike I had at home was really too small for me and I had wished for a new bike for my birthday in July, but I WON the big prize, a 26″ shiny new bike that had been the focal point of the prize stand all week! I couldn’t believe it was mine now. What a week, or I should say ‘what a YEAR’!
Speaking of years! 2020 takes the prize for the number of unusual, crazy, fear-inducing, head-spinning events! I feel as though I’m on the Tilt-a-Whirl ride, back in 1963, things spinning faster and faster and going up and down. Each day there seems to be a new dramatic event, that catches us up and promotes higher and higher anxiety. There was an impeachment trial focused on the President, there is a terrible virus like no one has ever seen that is discovered half-way around the world in China, and then it moves around the world, and suddenly it’s in the United States! Even the Royals of England have a tilt-a-whirl ride with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping down from their Royal duties…..didn’t we just seem to get up at 4:30 in the morning to watch the wedding? There are people in the news that are convicted of criminal acts, Harvey Weinstein. The Presidential race year is in full force with every single one of them trying to tell us, not what they can do for America, but why they should get our vote instead of the incumbent. Nasty commercials, mud slinging, old history brought up that is revolting. Now the virus is officially labeled as a world pandemic and there are hotspots breaking out in the United States, temporary hospitals are built, hospital ships being deployed to New York and California, then the country is shut down and businesses closing, we’ve been in quarantined our houses for what seems like months. Millions have lost their jobs. Over 103,000 people have died at the hands of the virus. People got a check from the IRS…really?? It felt like winning the bicycle! Here we are on the Whip ride at the Carnival, almost every day our head is jerked this way and that. Now we’re in a state of turmoil again with protests and looting, murders, bad vs good, racial tensions are running high; good cops/bad cops; and just like that, there’s very little said anymore about the virus!
We’re not on the Whip ride, we’re on the Tilt-a-Whirl, and spinning faster and faster, and going up and down. Remember what my Dad said ‘find the focal point’. But how do we do that? We’re perplexed, we’re bewildered by complex situations, we’re losing our balance and reaching out for something to steady us, to ground us, to keep us from getting too dizzy. Our present day circumstances and confusions are yearning for His presence in our present. We will get steadied by focusing on The One who is the way, the truth, and the life. The scriptures tell us in John 16:33 ‘I have said this to you, that in me (Jesus) you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Talk about 2020 tribulation, right? The definition of tribulation is adversity ✔, hardship ✔, distress ✔, affliction ✔. Jesus is the One who can quiet the storm, give us Peace… and make us feel untroubled, content, calm, without fear.
In Luke 8, the Disciples and Jesus were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee
‘ As they progress across the lake, Jesus falls sound asleep. Soon a raging storm blows in. The waves wash over the sides of the boat, and the boat starts filling up with water. Every second the situation becomes more dangerous. The disciples shake Jesus and wake Him.
Disciples (shouting): Master! Master! We’re all going to die!
Jesus wakes up and tells the wind to stop whipping them around, and He tells the furious waves to calm down. They do just that. Then Jesus turns to the disciples.
Jesus: What happened to your faith?
The disciples had been terrified during the storm, but now they’re afraid in another way. They turn to each other and start whispering, chattering, and wondering.
Disciples: Who is this man? How can He command wind and water so they do what He says?’
We are on the boat in the midst of a storm, like the Tilt-A-Whirl, but the good news is that Jesus is in that boat with us. He will calm this storm, He will make sense out of the senseless, He will use these situations to bring about good, He will bring about tranquility of our souls, if we but ask. This is a season that we are going through, and we will come out of the storm whole and peaceful and in a better place.
What is going through my mind right now are the lyrics to ‘It is Well With My Soul’,
- When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
- Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
- My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
- For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
- But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
- And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
I pray all is well with your soul amidst the turbulence –