Posted in Family, life, loving others, Scripture

Snake in the Hole

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” Psalm 50:15

The story you are about to read is true and it may scar you forever.  When our girls were young, oh, about six and five, we lived in Cobden, Illinois.  We owned a large 100 year old Victorian home which was located on the edge of town.  We had woods near by and of course lots of flower beds.  The church where I pastored was wanting to hire a guy to lead worship and work with the youth.

His name was David and his wife was Sue.  They came and stayed for the weekend and we had them over for supper on Saturday night.  After we had eaten, we were sitting around and chatting.  It was getting close to bedtime so we told the girls it was time for them to go upstairs and get ready for bed.  So, because they were perfect little girls (not), off they went while we continued to visit and chat.  It was just about then chaos broke out.

We heard what sounded like a herd of water buffalo coming down the stairs combined with the sound of a tornado siren going off.  I looked at Judy, she looked at me as we waited to see what the girls had cooked up.  All parents know that when kids are told to get ready for bed there is always a great conspiracy to not do it.  It has gone on for ages.  Sure enough, here they come, screaming at the top of their lungs, “Daddy, there’s a SNAKE in the bathroom!  There’s a SNAKE in the bathroom!”  Really, I mean give me a break. Is that the best that you have?

I try to believe my children but this was just a little far fetched. I started the usual parent stuff, “There’s no snake in the bathroom. You better get right upstairs and get ready for bed.”  There were probably a couple of mild threats that included something about the wrath of God but all to no avail.  They were sticking to their story.  So, off we went to find the nonexistent snake.  Whoever heard of such a thing?  Snake in the bathroom.  Right. Sure.

So, we all tramp upstairs, with David and Sue in tow, to see this mysterious serpent.  I went first not because I was bravest but because Judy made me.  I looked around and thankfully there was no snake.  Then the girls gave us one more small detail.  “It’s in the toilet, Daddy” they said.  Right. Sure.  I tentatively walked over and took a look.  No snake. Yay and then one of the girls said, “Look under the seat, Daddy.”  Well, by now I was sure this was a grand plan to avoid bedtime.  And then I lifted the seat.

There, neatly conformed to the shape of the bowl was indeed a snake.  Yes, he was only about 15 inches long but to me it looked like a giant anaconda and about that time they weren’t the only ones screaming.  I dropped the seat and we all left the bathroom to formulate a plan of attack.  It involved a clothes hanger and a brave soul.  I was elected.  We got a clothes hanger and straightened it out.  The plan was to lift the lid, push the snake into the water and flush. The snake would be sucked down the drain. Crisis solved.  So, I tip-toed over to the toilet, lifted the lid and poked the snake.  It fell into the water and I flushed.

I learned three things about snakes at that moment.  First, they are very buoyant.  Secondly, they swim really well. In an act of desperation, I even tried to hold the snake under the water with the clothes hanger.  Lesson number three.  They can hold their breath for a really long time.  There was only one thing left to do.  Call Bob, our friend and neighbor.  Bob was a biology teacher so he knew about snakes. Bob liked snakes.  Bob wasn’t afraid of snakes.  So we made the call and in a few minutes Bob came to the rescue.  He assured us that it was harmless and he reached down and picked up the snake.  Bob was a little weird like that.

The girls when to bed and David and Sue went on to take the job at the church. At least they knew we obviously didn’t practice snake handling. For years…Rebecca rarely visited the bathroom without first checking under the seat. Judy and I learned to be a bit less suspicious of our girls’ bedtime antics. And Bob…well although he lives an hour away, I keep his number of speed-dial.  It always pays off to have a friend like Bob. I keep God on speed dial too.  In all the craziness that night there was a lot of praying going on.  And like Bob, actually even better than Bob, God is always there. He doesn’t care if it something crazy like a snake in the toilet or a pandemic in the world…He can handle it. God tells us in the Bible that when we get in trouble, when we don’t know what to do or when we simply don’t know the answer give Him a holler and He will come to the rescue. You know,  I’m glad for friends like Bob. I’m especially glad for a Friend like Jesus. He’s never surprised when I call…never too busy…never annoyed.  He just whispers, “No problem, Dewayne. Take it easy. You can rest in me. I’ve got this.”

Posted in Family, life, Scripture

One Big Earthworm

Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” Proverbs 6:27-28

That’s gotta be one big earthworm.  It was a great spring morning.  Judy and I were living in Cobden, Illinois and over the years we had put together a really beautiful yard.  Judy can visualize how something is going to look and then has the knack to make it grow.  I do the grunt work.  I’m the yard man and she is the architect. That day we were putting some mulch around the flower beds.

Our yard had a retaining wall at one of the front corners and the yard sloped in that corner.  I would mulch leaves (we had four large maple trees) and put them there in the fall.  The next spring we would use it as free (and I love free) mulch.  I would take my trusty pitchfork and our oversized trash can down to the corner, fill up the can and take it to wherever she wanted it dumped.  Then we would spread it out.  Great plan.  Beautiful day.  All is well.  And then he showed up.

I went to the corner, loaded up the can, brought it to the middle of the yard to one of our flower beds and she said dump it.  I dumped it.  I was about to use the pitchfork to start spreading the mulch when I noticed the tip of an earthworm barely sticking out of the mulch.  In order to appreciate this, you need to know that earthworms, in Judy’s eyes are held in very high regard.  It’s something about they aerate and loosen up the soil making it better for the flowers.  I thought they were just fish bait. Silly me.

“Hey, there’s an earthworm” Judy exclaimed with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning.  “Grab him and put him in the garden.”  So, hey, I’m just the grunt man so I reached down and pulled on the little fella.  The little fella didn’t move.  I looked at Judy with a quizzical look. My thought was that if he wanted to stay that bad he could just go with the next pitch fork load.  No…that wasn’t gonna happen.  So I gave it another shot and this dude wasn’t moving.  “Poud (that’s Judy’s nick name) this guy isn’t coming.”

I took matters to the next level and took the pitchfork and shoved it into the mound around the earthworm and gave it a lift and a flip.  Well, shoot that thing, there was a stinking snake.  It wasn’t some innocent “let me aerate your soil” earthworm it was a 14 foot boa constrictor.  Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration.  But it was a snake, it was about two feet long and it was moving and so was I.  Now both Judy and I were a lot younger than but even for our age we were out of there.  And I do believe the grunt man outran the pretty little architect.

You ask, “What kind was it?”  Don’t know. Don’t care.  There are only two kinds of snakes—living and dead and this one was definitely alive.  Honestly, I have blocked out what happened next.  I can’t tell you if we went back and he was gone.  I can’t tell you if I got a shovel and in pure self-defense ended the life of the slithering creature or what.  I can only tell you that he was no longer a threat and I never, and I mean never, looked at the pile of mulch in the same way.

If I learned anything that day…and trust me I did…it was to be careful what you decide to pull on because things are not always as they seem.  Ask Eve.  The Genesis account of creation and the fall of man says that the serpent (that’s Bible code for snake) was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. The Hebrew language implies that the snake was beautiful, appealing. Intrigued she decided to strike up a conversation with him.  “Bad idea, Eve.” Just run. But she didn’t and now we have this messed up world and it was all because Eve grabbed a hold of something she should have left alone.

There’s an old tale about a man who was walking up a mountain and it was getting cold.  The man saw a rattlesnake and the snake said, “Please put me in your coat and take me down the mountain.”  The man said, “No way, you will bite me.”  The snake assured him he would not.  He picks the snake up, puts it in his coat and goes down the mountain.  As the temperature rises the snake gets a little more frisky and bites the man.  The man, shocked, says, “You said you wouldn’t bite me.”  And the snake replied, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”  So true. So tragically true.

The Bible also says this, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?”  “What does that mean?” you ask.  It means the next time a snake wants to strike up a conversation, run.  It means the next time you are tempted to sin, run. It means the next time your wife wants you to grab the tail of an oversized earthworm, run. No…it doesn’t mean that but it does mean be sure you know what you are grabbing before you take hold. Fortunately, our Abba Father knows all about snakes and sin and grabbing hold when we shouldn’t.  He also loves us enough to give us wisdom to know the difference.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.” With wise counsel like that we don’t have to fear oversized earthworms or the other stuff we are living through right now.  No, we can rest in Him.  He’s got this.