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  • "A Musing Pastor"

Warning signs

Do you believe in guardian angels? No, not the community group that was started in New York city, I'm talking about God's angels. I'm talking about invisible guardians that are sent to protect us. Hope this doesn't sound heretical, but I'm not convinced just yet. I know scripture speaks of real angels and I know God's presence is real. I, however, believe the Holy Spirit of God is my guide, shield, comforter, and in some cases a voice that warns me of dangers. Since he lives inside of me, He has access to my heart, brain, and body. I guess I am saying I don't worship angels and give them more power and glory than God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

"It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that

have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from

heaven. Even angels long to look into these things." (1 Peter 1:12, NIV)

The other day we were hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail near Hamburg, PA. The trail was rather steep in places and both sides of the trail were lined with rocks. As we ventured upward, I happened to look to the side and saw a garter snake coiled up in the leaves. Photo op! I snapped a couple pictures before the snake slithered away. In the next 1/4 mile we saw a couple more garter snakes and an Eastern Ring snake. Wow! Great hike today!

Somewhere in the back of one's mind, there needs to be a conversation between the safety coordinator and the adventure guide. The latter (the heart) is saying, "This hike is excellent! We have seen several reptiles!" The former (the brain) is saying, "Stay focused, snakes on this mountain aren't always non-venomous." Our feelings and common sense wage a tug of war daily.

Our hiking family loves to scale heights and enjoy God's creation! There are times when scaling the summit can get in the way of safely proceeding forward. So, it was with even greater excitement when we spotted two rather large snake skins lying off the trail. The first looked to be from a Black Rat snake and it was about 6 feet long. The second snake skin, near the summit, was shorter and down over a couple boulders. (Kenny holding the longer and Joe the shorter)

As I pointed out the second find, our son slipped past me to go retrieve it. At that moment something set off an alarm in my head. It was probably the safety coordinator. I immediately told Joe to tread carefully and observe every nook and cranny. I instructed him to scan the rock face to his right and be sure no snakes were perched there. The alarm may have been triggered by the ornate design on this skin. Take note of the diamonds. Even you have already figured out that a snakeskin is a good sign that snakes are present or at least near.

As Joe bent to retrieve the discarded skin, I moved out on the boulder above to be an extra set of eyes. As I stepped forward, I heard Joe exclaim, "Oh, Wow!" Even as he said it I saw it.

A quiet and careful retreat by Joe lowered our rapid heartbeats. What a beautiful creature! The Timber rattlesnake never alarmed but slowly crawled away. It was hunting and methodically searching. It is quite likely, this snake had just completed the shedding process given the snakeskin was still damp.

Looking in the rearview mirror, I have thought about how that moment unfolded. There was excitement, the climb, the discovery of snake skins, the find, and the internal feeling of alarm. Some folks would say we had a 'gut feeling' and intuitively thought to use more care in the snake den. Others, like me, would say that God's Spirit was speaking into our reality. Using the faculties God has blessed us with is part of faith. We reason and consider our surroundings. God has created us with the ability to think things through. Disconnecting our brain from faith isn't encouraged nor is it wise.

Consider our faith to built upon the Holy Bible, formed by reason, guided by traditions, and broadened by experience. Keep your wits about you in the present age. Things are both beautiful and dangerous. Listen intently to your safety coordinator while giving your adventure guide a chance to speak as well.

"What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.

Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in

us." (2 Timothy 1:13-14, NIV)

PS: There was a larger darker Timber Rattler not five feet away from the first. Neither buzzed their rattles and both slithered away with no or little concern about our presence.

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