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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sometimes There’s Just a Snake in the Garden

Sometimes there’s mayhem.
Sometimes my world splits open and rattles my bones and ghosts from the past rise up.

And sometimes there’s just a snake in the garden.

There was snake this morning. Not the nice garden snake, but viper so much the color of dirt that I didn’t see it ‘til silent movement slithered down corner crack in garden bed. It’s there undercover hidden and in camouflage.

Brave me wanted to take spade in hand and chop off its head, but queasy me couldn’t. I’ve seen it done before when I’ve cried, “Snake!’ and the German has beheaded a few for me with shovel. After that, the garage was all man cave as far as I was concerned.

But this snake. Spade size. I just stood there with the tomatoes and watched it go down by the zucchinis.

“There’s a snake in the garden.” Where have I heard that before? I know exactly where. It’s in Genesis. Eden birthplace. Earthen womb where Father hands reached in and pulled out. Man.. Where intents and thoughts of heart and head were part of the same cord inwoven by Spirit.
I’m not a great warrior. The only reason for victory is that God is my great warrior. He’s already dealt with the serpent Satan. But I‘m still living on this earthen ground in this dusty body and I still see snakes. See the forked tongue sensing my presence. Here the hiss. It sounds like the “s-s-s-p,s-s-s-p” scraping together in gloved hands leaves and dirt and thorny canes and dried mud balls. I capture them in hand and dump them in leaf bag for recycling pick up. In suburbia we can’t just burn it. We have to handle it. Scoop it up. Bag it and drag it to alley.
Leaf Bag
And, may I do the same inside my head? May I capture in gloves thick the dead leaf flutter that crinkles in mental cracks? The dried mud-balls that clod my thoughts? Scrape it together and not hear the “s-s-s-p,s-s-s-p” rebel hiss as gloved thoughts complain against those who have bitten me, left scars? May I do the work just quietly and just straight on, one gloved handful at a time?

I’m practicing being mindful of what’s in my mind. Thoughtful toward my thoughts.

 It’s done on hands and knees and my right index finger, the one that points, is infected; and my right knee is bruised and, yeah, I get the message. I’m trying to capture the thoughts of my mind like that. Trying to stand up and dump them into leaf bag and not touch them again. Unless, as has happened before, the contents spill out the bottom because I have let the bag sit on damp ground for days when I should have completed the whole process and dragged the lot straight to alley, closed the gate, removed gloves, and only then showered.

I’m learning. Scraping it together handful by handful. Oddly, the snake motivated me because if I can’t behead the snake, I can behead a thought or two before they slither down into some cranial crack and blend in camouflaged and coiled to strike. Yeah, I’m motivated.

 How do they, the leaf bag makers, envision the likes of me opening the bag? My arms aren’t long enough to reach inside and slap the brown paper sides open. I could lie down and crawl inside. No. I decide to wear the bag. I pull it over my head like a dress ‘til it skirts around knees, reach straight up and wave my arms around inside the bag. I do this behind a tree. Privately. Because, truthfully, I’ve never seen a neighbor open a leaf bag and I don’t want to be seen opening one

It opens. And I swan-dive graceful bend at waist, and “If possible, keep your spine straight. Breathe from your throat, if possible, and extend out long stretch and bend from hip only, if possible, and pull your chest to the knees. Exhale deeper into your stretch, if possible,” I can hear my gentle yoga instructor while I asphyxiate upside down and wriggle out of bag because it’s not possible today. Not like this.

Capturing thoughts and dragging bags. And I’m always surprised at how much I can crush into those bags because I conveniently forget how many thoughts are worth bagging. Well, it’s because thoughts worth bagging are worth ignoring, except that ignored thoughts are still there. Just camouflaged snake waiting to strike. I remember them when I start hearing them hiss just while I get grumpy. Or they are remembered right when I’m digging into holy scripture ground and wanting to transplant and transform. Dig too deep and find snake in some corner.

I want to dig and transplant like that. It’s just that sometimes there’s a snake in the garden, but I’m learning how to get that in the bag too.

It’s sweaty hot work. It’s bruising. It’s humbling. It’s messy and dirty and “Why can’t someone else see that this needs to be done! Why is it always me doing it?!?” Oh, yeah. Lots of “s-s-s-p” thoughts to dump. It’d be so much easier to simply put a lit match to the whole mess and keep my knees off the clumpy dirt and watch it go up in flame

But, no. That’s for another Day. And on that Day I hope the work I’ve done on earth, the thoughts I’ve dumped and the mind I’ve battled for in this brain, will leave very little left to burn as I enter Heaven gate.

Some will enter as through fire, I’m told in First Corinthians chapter thirteen and verse three. And I really don’t want to enter Heaven gate through way of hellish fire. I’d rather nothing more than flicker flame on wick, thank you very much.

I’d rather scrape up my thoughts and silence the “s-s-s-p” hiss so I can hear God whisper and hear myself think enough to ask myself, “What on earth am I thinking?” and to say to God who knows my thoughts, “Bag them and change them! Drag them out to alley and close the gate and make highway to Your gate.” I wave my garden gloves all carried away,“Hallelujah! Onward! To. Your. Gate! Amen!”

“Ahem.”It’s God. “You just keep those gloves on and keep bagging.”

 “Oh.”I clear my throat. “Clear my mind. Remove the mud-clod thinking. Shut snake up. Oh, just shut up the snake! The “s-s-s-p” hiss!” Because it’s a fork in the way and rebel tongue and rubble that is in the way.” I put gloves back on and my finger hurts.

Garden Glove
Istand quiet after my outburst. And hear whisper. Just wonderful whisper so different from hiss. “Be transformed by the renewing of you mind.” It’s God. Whispering His own word to me. I know the word. It’s Romans chapter twelve verse two word that we hear a lot but how often do we feed on it because it’s life cord all Father, Son and Holy Spirit and body, soul and spirit die if we cut loose.
“I’m trying.” I whisper back all sweaty and hot and I don’t care that there’s dirt on my glove when I swipe tear.

“Think on whatever things are true,” He starts and I join in by heart, “whatever things are noble, just, pure,” our voices whisper together, “lovely, of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
If I see that snake again, I might just grab spade and toss the silenced hiss in the bag. Maybe I’ll string it up to dry first. All I can say is, there’s power in this three-stranded cord, ‘cause this woman is cutting off snake heads and silencing hiss in her own head; and scraping up “s-s-s-p” thoughts and is marked tan by fire in the sky and refined beneath it, too. So that on delivery Day, when I push through Heaven’s gate into new life, literally, it will not be like passing through fire, but flicker.

That’s the grace I pray for as I try live it out in a million little ways.

written by:Carolyn Elizabeth Roehrig





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