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Apr 1

Weird Stuff – Chaska, Snakes & Satan – NOT April Fools!

Posted on Friday, April 1, 2011 in Uncategorized
TreeHouse trips have been wonderful times to build relationships and to challenge and grow together.  On one autumn trip I saw God do something inexplicable. 

One year many teens made new faith commitments. We wanted to help them grow in their faith, but we could never have prepared them for what God had in mind.

On our retreat we discussed that the world is in a battle.  A battle between good and evil.  A spiritual battle that we face when we choose to follow God.

We discussed how salvation equips us for the battle; how bible reading and study is essential to find out God’s “battle plans”; the importance of “communicating with HQ” by praying; and other challenges that we may face.

As the excitement for the weekend grew I told another one of our staff that I was watching for some sort of conflict; that Satan would try to stir up and create a distraction from God.

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 has a history of violence, Tara didn’t retaliate. She ran downstairs.  Confused the staff person confronted Toni.

Word spread.  Gossip erupted.  Sides were chosen.

We, the staff, needed to take action.

After talking through some of the details, a large group meeting was called to address the situation.

Toni explained that she thought yelling & 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 (Eph. 4:28-32).  Excitedly, the teens talked about how well that fit our own situation.

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 (Jn. 10:10).  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.”

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”

Later 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.

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.  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 snake was gone.

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.

We can’t explain the arrival of the snake any more than its disappearance.

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 make Adam and Eve’s lives to distract them from what they knew about God.  In doing so Satan made their lives miserable.

Did God reveal the “serpent” in our midst?  Right there in the woodwork?

Did God use a disappearing snake to teach us how we should beware of Satan’s elusiveness?

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.

Teens wondered aloud what happened to the snake, and I will never ever forget holding the snake that literally came out of the woodwork!

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