Sunday, February 21, 2010

If There're Snakes In There, There're Fish In There!

The Surprise Attack
My son Reuben and I were working in the yard one summer’s day a few years ago and stumbled upon a nest of bumble bees hidden in the ground beside a storage shed out back. Bumble bees are normally non-aggressive and mind their own business, but they will attack with a vengeance if anything disturbs their nest. Reuben and I backed away, but our dog saw an adventure and fearlessly began to bite and snap at the buzzing creatures as they flew out of the hole to defend their nest. This was the dog’s first experience with bumble bees, and she was enjoying it immensely --- until she received a couple well-placed stings. She was not expecting this. The startled dog cried out with a loud yelp and took off running as fast as she could around to the front yard and out of sight. She had learned her lesson. She found a quiet place, lay on the ground, and began licking her wounds assuming the worst was over.

The Bumblebee did not play fair.
When things calmed down I returned to investigate the nest. Suddenly, one lone bumble bee came flying out of the hole and right towards me. I took off running as fast as I could toward the front yard hoping he would give up if I ran far enough away from the nest. Nevertheless, when I looked back, I saw this bumble bee at eye level about 3 feet behind me, closing in, and only a couple seconds away from stinging me. Then all of a sudden he inexplicably turned away from me, made a sharp right turn, and went straight for the poor dog lying quietly in the front yard minding her own business. Instantly I heard the dog give another loud yelp as the bumble bee stung her again. The dog then jumped up and ran off into the trees to hide in the bushes. This second attack was an even greater shock than the first one.

Snakes are fun?
This same dog used to catch snakes. She would come running up into the yard with the snake’s body hanging out both sides of her mouth and flapping around as she jumped about playing with it. Her prey had been limited to harmless garden snakes, green snakes, and rat snakes. She had never met a bad snake and so her education was not yet complete. I knew she would one day run up on a copperhead which would disillusion her and drastically change her approach to snakes.

I came home one day to find the dog listless and moping about with her snout swollen up as big as the rest of her head. She had finally met up with a Copperhead thinking she could play with it, and kill and eat it as easily as she had done with so many with other snakes. Again she had learned a hard lesson. Henceforth, whenever she found a snake she would bark and growl, but keep her distance. She would not avoid them, it was her nature to be aggressive and to fight, but now she did so with a little more knowledge and wisdom. She was never bitten again.

Religion versus harsh realities
The dog was caught completely by surprise in both instances, not expecting any real pain or problems other than the fun of the game. Are we like that? What about you? Were you expecting a toaster oven for joining? Were you expecting a tour of duty in Hawaii rather than warfare in the spiritual battlefields of the world? Did you expect the enemy to be fair and play by the rules? Did you expect your Christian friends to be perfect and never disappoint you? Did you expect no surprises, no enigmas, no anomalies? Did you not realize that you might “wake up” one day to say “Oh God, what happened to me?”

John the Baptist may have felt this way as he sat in a cold, dark prison awaiting his death and questioning his whole life and ministry. He sent word to Jesus asking, “Are you the one or do we look for another?” Jesus sent encouraging words letting him know that things were progressing according to God’s plan. The snake may have bitten your foot, but we are crushing his head. John had done a great work, he had prepared the way, and now Jesus was demonstrating the kingdom of God through miraculous signs and wonders. Jesus at that time also reminded the multitudes that the kingdom is not about men in soft garments, nor religious people acting like children sitting in the marketplace playing religious games and pretending while the real world and reality passes all around them. “The kingdom,” He said, “suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” We get real bruises and real hurts, but we stay in the battle.

Because we have confined our spiritual realities to the inside of the four walls of a church building, and placed God behind our religious traditions, choir robes, and candles, it is hard for many to see Him in the harsh realities of everyday life. This is one of the reasons why it is so easy for people to ignore God in real life while checking-in with Him on Sunday morning and then inviting Him to the funeral so they can get into heaven if it should happen to exist. Maybe that is one of the reasons the Old Testament had so much blood and sacrifice. People were reminded constantly of life and death and the fact that their spiritual life was intimately tied to the harsh realities of the every day real world.

"If there's snakes in there, there's fish in there."
When I was a teenager my friend Mr. Arthur Harrelson and I went fishing in the black waters of Woods Lake just off the Wacamaw River. We paddled with one hand and fished with the other as we slowly maneuvered our small, two-man boats through the moss-covered cypress trees and river oaks in the water along the edge of the lake. A tree had fallen over into the water and was lying on its side with half its branches under water and half above water. We slowly guided our boats toward the tree and aimed our hook and line to catch fish that were surely lurking in its branches underwater. The branches and limbs above the water were loaded with snakes, and I kept hearing “Ker-Plop” and “ker Plop” as I watched many of them drop into the water as our boats approached. Suddenly, I heard splashing and looked around to see that Mr. Harrelson had gotten out of his boat and was wadding waist deep in the black water. He was moving toward the tree and leaning forward with his hook and line dropped into the midst of those limbs.
“Mr. Harrelson!” I said, “What are you doing? There are a lot of snakes in there!”
Never taking his eyes off his cork, he replied, “If there’s snakes in there, there’s fish in there.”

Mr Harrelson was willing to face the snakes to catch the fish, and he caught more than I did. The same is true in our walk with God. The battle is real and the enemy is real.Therefore, we should not play games and pretend, but neither should we be afraid and shrink back because of the realities. If the “snakes” are there, the “fish” are there. We should be of good courage and bravely go forward expecting to be more than conquorers through Christ Jesus. The spiritual battle is real, and often difficult and painful, but we will succeed as we continue in faith and patient endurance placing our trust and confidence in Jesus Christ our Lord.

“…I have fought with wild beasts at Ephesus…” 1 Corinthians 15:2

“ all these things we are more than conquerors than through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37


Billy Long said...

[A comment sent in via email from Jim Shock, a pastor in the Charlotte area]- BL

Billy: another great one. I especially liked, Therefore, we should not play games and pretend, but neither should we be afraid and shrink back because of the realities. If the “snakes” are there, the “fish” are there. We should be of good courage and bravely go forward expecting to be more than conquorers through Christ Jesus.

Linda B said...

I think this was originally attributed to Ronald Reagan. Your homily reminded me of this story.

A farmer was walking in the country with his young son. They happened upon an old abandoned barn. They opened the door and found manure piled halfway to the rafters. The farmer grabbed a shovel and gave one to his son. "Start shoveling, Son" he said. "There has to be a pony in here somewhere!"

In the midst of all our trials, there has to be a blessing but sometimes we just have to dig to find it.

Joseph Holbrook said...

you are a vivid story teller Billy. I hope you have thought about saving these up and publishing a book, part humor and part home-spun theology. Something like Garrison Keillor.

Billy Long said...

Joseph, Actually, I have thought about saving these up and maybe eventually publishing them as a book. Thanks for your encouragement. I do appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Dont forget the email I sent you to check out the publishing place.

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Billy Long said...

I want to welcome the person who made the previous comment. Thanks for visiting this site. I welcome any comments or questions. Feel free to add comments here or to email me. My email address is on the front page of the blog.
Thanks again,
Billy Long