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Childhood reflections with a touch of grace: Snakes on a bus

Having survived the trauma of being thrown half-naked from my hotel room as mentioned in a previous article, I was eager to have some fun of my own. Fear seemed to be a great vehicle for accomplishing this, so I began looking for the best possible scenario to stir up a bit of nerve-racking trouble.

It wasn't long before another youth trip rolled around and I found myself at Disney World, where I was certain that my devious intentions could be carried out. Sure enough, I happened across a gift shop that had prices that were sure to scare anyone.

Laying my financial fears aside, I discovered a hidden treasure in the toy section, hidden beneath a pile of worthless trinkets that were on sale for $20 or less. I named him Fred and he had the most beautiful black eyes I had ever seen. Plus, his body had a nice thickness, with that moist, slimy feel that one appreciates in a proper rubber snake. At the bargain price of $15.99, I was certain this was a sign from God that this was my day.

I carefully wrapped my snake in a brown paper bag, so that it would appear that I was toting around snacks. As I was prone to perpetual bouts of eating, this was a great disguise. I remained a perfect angel for the remainder of the day, because I knew we were making the long trip home in the evening.

As night fell, my creative juices began to stir in ways a youth pastor would naturally dread. It became clear to me that Fred would be at his scariest if many of my fellow travelers were almost asleep. I knew the time was right for action when most of the gossiping and flirting in the back few seats of the bus had ceased.

As a hushed silence fell upon my hapless victims, I sent Fred flying through the air from my seat, which was conveniently located in the middle of the bus. I didn't have to guess where he went, as a most piercing shriek was heard from the young lady in whose lap he landed. I noticed a slight swerve in the general direction the bus was traveling and my pastor's facial expressions suggested he might be looking for a more predictable profession very soon.

After offering penance for my deeds and some impressive negotiations, my snake and I were reunited. Once I got home, I was delighted to hear my sister was visiting. To welcome her home, I nestled Fred neatly between her bedsheets, just below her pillow. There's something about a shriek of terror that never gets old. My sweet sister was so startled at the sight of my rubber snake that she passed out, crumbling to the bed like cornbread over a plate of collard greens.

I got the feeling that this particular prank may have gone too far, as Fred was kidnapped by an unusually red-faced woman resembling my mother. I was later told that Fred had been spotted at a neighbor's yard sale.

My brothers took revenge for my sister a short time later, with a little help from a gust of wind that blew through a back window of our house, which caused my parent's bedroom door to slam. The commotion created visions of ghostly proportions that my brothers were more than happy to exaggerate.

I was so scared that my brothers ran with me to my parent's workplace, occasionally picking me up by my hands so they could enjoy the spectacle of my little legs spinning wildly in the air. I couldn't seem to stop my running motion, no matter what.

Fear has the ability to play some strange tricks on all of us. Due to our inherent frailty, we fear disease, scarcity, insecurity and any number of other plights that might befall us. Jesus offers an odd cure for all of these ills and it isn't what you would expect from an all-powerful God. According to Him, perfect love is the ticket (1 John 4:18). It isn't some massive show of strength or stealthy cunning that frees us from fear's dastardly grip, it's just love.

When God loves us, It's always perfect because He has no hidden agenda or prerequisites. It's just His nature to love. His provision on the cross clears us of guilt and shame, freeing us of the fear of never quite getting it right.

Something often missed in Christian circles is that the cross also reminds us of the impotence of earthly concerns. Who we are created to become is the only issue that follows us into eternity. The basis for most of our fears is centered around things down here that didn't turn out as expected, causing us to sometimes lose our trust in the goodness of God.

We would all do well to learn Paul's secret of being content with whatever state he found himself in on a given day. "To live is Christ. To die is gain," he said. Not much fear in that statement. That's what God's love does; turns our worries into wonders.

You may wake up tomorrow full of wonder and be worrying before noon. It's just the winds of fear attempting to slam the door on your new identity that sees every breath as an encounter with Christ and every deadly threat as a promotion opportunity. Rebuke those winds of fear and get you some of that "peace, be still."(Mark 4:39).  Fear, like rubber snakes and gentle breezes, has no power over you.

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