Visiting a Snake Handling Church

Reposted from 9 November 2016

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Last Friday, I visited a snake handling church.  It took several months to find it, because the practice is extremely rare.  The church is located in Section, Alabama, which is a little less than 2 hours from where I live.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos to share.  I wanted to take pictures; however, it seemed disrespectful.  I also felt like I would be violating their privacy.

I was concerned about how the church members would react to me.  There is no way I could just blend in with the regulars.  I have very short hair, I am covered in tattoos, and I was wearing pants.  However, they were nice and welcomed me to the church.  Several of the ladies took time to talk with me and the preacher even invited me to have dinner at his house with him and his family.

The first part of the service involves worshipping God by singing and offering praises.  They used various instruments and it was rather loud.  People raised their hands and their bodies would shake as they were worshiping.  Others walked around the building and prayed in tongues.

During the singing portion, the preacher picked up a copperhead snake and raised it into the air.  A second man also tried to pick up the snake, but the snake attempted to bite the man.  The preacher came over and prayed for the man, so he could try again.  His next attempt was successful and he also held the snake over his head.

Several other men held a small flaming torch and they started putting their hands on top of the flames.  They also held the torch close to their chest and directly under their chins.  After a few seconds, they praised God for not allowing them to get hurt by the flames and passed the torch to another man.

I was disturbed by the small children playing in the aisle ways of the church.  A two year old girl was allowed to room free as they were worshiping.  What if someone drops the poisonous snake and the child happens to be near them?

The worship lasted an hour and was followed by an hour of preaching.  The best way to describe the preacher’s sermon, it was convoluted.  The preacher jumped from one topic to another and then back to a previous topic.

The main points of his sermon:  it’s a sin for men to have long hair, it’s a sin for women to have short hair, it’s a sin for women to use makeup, it’s a sin for women to wear pants, it’s a sin for women to be in a leadership position over a man, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit you will speak in tongues, you must be baptized in Jesus name to be saved, you must be filled with the spirit and speak in tongues to be saved, other denominations are sending everyone to hell by teaching false doctrine, you should only marry a holiness person, and failure to keep any of the commandments will result in physical illnesses as well as an eternity in hell.

At the end of his sermon, the preacher looked at me and said God will accept you as you are and if your hair is short you can still come unto God and be saved.  Even though it’s awkward when the preacher speaks directly to you and everyone in the congregation knows what he is talking about, I felt like he was trying to reach out and teach the gospel.  He did not condemn at any time, so that’s a plus.

All in all, I am glad I went to the service.  It was an interesting experience and I learned a few things about a fringe religious group that I didn’t know.

 

Chocolate God

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The Aztecs and the Mayans were the first people groups to cultivate the cocoa bean and make chocolate.  They would grind up the cocoa seeds and mix it with water to create a drink.  They also used the beans it to make a porridge, and mixed it with various spices.

The Aztecs considered chocolate “food for the gods” and it was served to royal families in golden goblets.  However, the Mayans believed chocolate was a gift from the cocoa god.

In the 1500’s, Cortez exported the cocoa bean to Europe.  The Europeans began mixing it with sugar and the popularity of chocolate spread like wild fire.

I recommend you take a moment today and enjoy a heavily snack of chocolate.  Don’t forget to truly savor the flavor and enjoy each moment.

 

(sources:  www.chocolate-history.co.uk and http://www.exhibits.mannlib.cornell.edu)

 

Three Dimensional Dog

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I enjoy working with and training my dogs.  I’ve read a ton of books on dog training and attended several different training schools with my dogs.  However, the book “Three Dimensional Dog” by Aaron McDonald is different from anything I have encountered up to this point.

It was eye opening and changed my entire approach to dog training.  While I was reading the book, I was wondering why didn’t I think about these issues.  It seems so obvious now.

The first part of the book explains the differences between trick training and cognitive behavior training.

Most dogs are trained to perform an action for a treat.  The training is focused only on the outer behavior of the dog.  This is known as trick training.

Cognitive behavior training looks at the whole dog.  It addresses the inner mind and emotions of the dog and uses that information to teach the dog how to live peacefully within the family unit.  The three dimensional approach to dog training is based on cognitive behaviorism.

The first dimension that needs to be addressed is the dog’s emotional needs.  Does the dog feel safe and have appropriate boundaries?  Are the dog’s physical needs being addressed?

The second dimension is concerned with what the dog is thinking.  Before a dog does anything they will develop an intellectual plan.  Paying attention to the dog’s body language will tell you how the dog is feeling and give you insight into what the dog is thinking.

The third dimension involves action.  It is everything the dog does with their body.  This is where traditional training methods actually start.

Addressing the dogs physical, emotional, and intellectual needs will allow the dog to reach a state of actualization.  Also, focusing on the three dimensions help the dog achieve a balanced emotional state.  This allows the dog to reach their fullest potential and be a functioning member of the family unit.

The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

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My favorite quotes from The Wit & Wisdom of Mark Twain:

  • A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.
  • It is our nature to conform; it is a force which not many can successfully resist.
  • An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.
  • I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.
  • Experience is an author’s most valuable asset; experience is the thing that puts the muscle and the breath and the warm blood into the book he writes.
  • Many a small thing has been made large by advertising.
  • Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).
  • Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.

Fahrenheit 451

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I just finished reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  My favorite section in the book, is when Montag asked, “Where do we go from here?  Would books help us?”

Faber responded: “Only if the third necessary thing could be given us.  Number one, as I said, quality of information.  Number two: leisure to digest it.  And number three:  the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the  first two.”

Although it wasn’t mentioned in this section, but it was alluded to in other parts of the book, another thing needed is the desire to read and learn from books.

You don’t have to burn books to make them ineffective.  You just have to get people to stop reading them.  You get them to not want to read books.

I’m Sorry – A Hard Thing to Say

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Apologizing is not always easy.  You have to be willing to admit to doing wrong, to being ignorant, or to hurting someone.  It takes strength and personal courage to apologize.

When delivering an apology be real and be willing to admit you were wrong.  We all make mistakes.  How you handle those mistakes is a demonstration of your personal character.