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Apr 1

NOT AN April Fool Story!

Posted on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

800px-Thamnophis_sirtalis_(Common_Garter_Snake)_I told this story a couple years ago, but I’d like to tell it again. If you get one of the eyewitnesses to tell it it’s even better told in person. That said, this is NOT an April Fools story!

For almost thirty years TreeHouse trips have been wonderful times to great fun and building relationships. We listen and talk. We challenge our thinking, and inspire one another to new ways of living.

On one autumn trip we also saw the inexplicable.

At that Fall Camp and we were engaged in deep thoughts. We discussed the problem of evil, and the battle between good and evil. We invited our listeners to choose to follow God, but we warned them that when people choose sides they overtly enlist in the spiritual battle.

As the excitement for the weekend bloomed I wondered aloud, “I wonder how Satan will try to distract them.”

Two hours later, the battle began.

Always energetic Tara bounded into the room where Toni was trying to rest. Disturbed, and now frustrated, Toni locked the door when Tara exited. Moments later Tara returned to the locked room and pounded on door to get Toni’s attention.

Unsuccessful, Tara found a staff person to talk Toni into opening the door.

Now, very angry, Toni opened the door and without a moments notice punched Tara in face. Though she had a history of violence, Tara didn’t retaliate. She ran downstairs. Confused the staff person confronted Toni.

Word spread. Gossip erupted. Sides were chosen.

A large group meeting was called to address the situation.

Toni explained that she thought yelling and violence was her only way to get Tara’s attention. Tara responded that she was wrong. Toni charged Tara — filled with rage — threatening to hit her again. Tara ran past her, out of the room.

I asked Toni why she thought that was her only and best choice. She said “no one ever listens” to her unless she does so. I confronted her about her mood swings and silent pity parties. Knowing that many of the teens and staff had tried unsuccessfully to support her I reminded her that we all had tried to listen to her feelings and concerns.

While we were upstairs, Jessi, one of the teens, asked to pray for the group, for God’s power and for God’s peace.

She asked for a sign from God.

Jessi was a new Christian, we had never directly taught her to pray like that.

Tony — who himself had just began to read the Bible that summer — opened a Bible. He looked through the index of his Bible for a passage on forgiveness. Excitedly, the teens talked about how well that fit our own situation. 1

We returned to the group and I explained how the weekend was a perfect example of the “dangerous world” battle scenario. Satan came to “steal, kill and destroy” us, but that Jesus came to give us an radically different life. 2

We prayed together as a group. Tears flowed freely.

Many of us prayed for God’s victory among us. More Scripture was read and discussed.

Brandy prayed aloud the prayer that I was praying internally. She prayed that either Toni or Tara would initiate a resolution. Quite frankly, I was praying that God wouldn’t “blow this chance to teach us something.”

A Moment Later

Toni asked Tara what she was feeling. Rather than use that as an opening for retaliation or self-pity Tara said, “hurt, sad, angry.”

Tara then asked Toni the same question. Toni replied, “That’s how I felt all summer.”

Toni blurted out, “No one ever listens to me! No one knows what I’m going through! I can’t trust anyone.” Then she burst into tears.

Immediately, Tara got up, crossed the room and gave Toni a hug. Toni received the hug. Then stood up and asked for a “big hug”.

She was immediately surrounded by a hug. Devon said “looks like God won”


While some of the group were playing a game and talking in another room someone began yelling that they saw a snake.

Assuming it was a prank I ignored the outburst.

Then one of the staff reported that the snake was real. I walked from the group room into the game room. I expected to see a snake lying coiled in the corner.

Instead there poking out from between the panels of the wood and the door jam was a garter snake.Garter snakes are non-poisonous snakes common in the Midwest, but they are not commonly found extending out of the woodwork. And, yet, there it was, hanging five feet above the ground.

I love snakes; that weekend not everyone agreed with me.

I caught the snake until I decided what to do with the snake.

That October there was a lot of snow outside. Putting the snake outside would have been cruel.

One Snake Safe & Secure

I found a jar with a screw-on lid. Finding a hammer I took a small nail and punched holes in the jar’s cover. Knowing that we had several people on the trip afraid of snakes I carefully punched holes in the lid small enough to allow air in and out but not large enough for the snake.

I put the snake into the jar. I sealed the jar, tightly. I carried the snake and the jar into an office. I locked the door and only I had the key to that room.

When morning came I was still troubled trying to figure out what to do with the snake. I unlocked the office door.

The jar was on the desk were I had left it.The seal was tight, but the snake was gone.

The snake — no less than a quarter inch in diameter — could not have squeezed out of the tiny holes I created.

Lessons To Be Learned

We wondered aloud if the snake and the snake’s disappearance was a “sign from God.”

The Bible explains that Satan appeared as a “serpent” to distract and discourage Adam and Eve from following God. Satan wants to make us forget our faith.

Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack. But you must resist the devil and stay strong in your faith…” 3

I know that this was one of the most remarkable events in my life. This could have been just an emotional experience, but weeks later Toni still wore a pendant with Tara’s picture in it around her neck.

What now? “Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door,” said Jesus Christ.  Today I’m praying that each reader considers seriously Jesus’ invitation to choose to follow God.  4

“Join us!” is #mysilentscream.

Addendum: Tony messaged me on Facebook to remind me that we had been frequently listening to the song Snakes In The Playground by Bride. I had forgotten that! Give it a listen.

1 – Tony found and read Ephesians 4:28-32. Great stuff!
2 – The battle over you is current, relevant and real.
3 – 1 Peter 5:8-9, CEV
4 – Revelation 3:20, CEV

Bring on the comments

  1. I got chills, this was a great read. Thanks for sharing Scott.

  2. Angi, this seriously was remarkable.

    Tony, one of the teens on the trip, reminded me on Facebook that we had been listening to a song that really fit the weekend too: Bride’s Snake In The Playground. Cool song, even cooler connection!

  3. As soon as you said fall retreat I knew what you were talking about. That was a real eye opener seeing that I could make better choices and not hit someone back. I remember how shocked I was that I didn’t but felt at peace with the choice that I made. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks Tara for showing all off us evidence that change is possible!

  5. So cool! Loooooooove this story and the desire teens had to seek out truth on their own. God is so good!

  6. So true Greg!

  7. I remember both of these situations and how God got us through them!
    Thanks for Sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. You’re welcome.
    Thanks for reading and adding to our memories Jenny!

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