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 Categories : Adventures In Faith

 

Spiders, Snakes and Faith

By Pastor. Laura Rizzo

This story happened five years after my story entitled “Tennessee or Bust” so I suggest that if you haven’t read that “test” first that you do so as you will see some incredible similarities. If you have already read that, please keep the details in mind.

ONE MORE TIME AROUND THE MOUNTAIN

As I begin this, I never, EVER, EVER in all my life figured that ANYTHING could be WORSE than what we went through in Tennessee. But, you know before you read this, that that is exactly what happened and it happened right in the swamps of Fort Myers, Florida in June of 1991. We spent all five years in Tennessee praying to move back to Florida and God answered that prayer as we obtained a small camper and a friend loaned us a 1985 Chevy Blazer to tow it for the journey.

Arriving in Fort Myers, we soon settled into a less than desirable mobile home park in North Fort Myers which is a place that Jed Clampett would delight in calling home before he struck oil. Living by nothing other than what I call the “fumes of faith” for a few months, this time an opportunity came our way to be the caretakers of a 30,000 palm tree farm located in a secluded area off of Six Mile Cypress Parkway in south Fort Myers. (Ya think we would have learned from the first time!!)

We had met the owner through a friend of a friend of a friend and the first “friend” gave us the specifics of what the owner of the property was wanting in the caretaker position. A few days later we stopped by the property and chatted with the owner and the repairman he had hired. When the owner offered us the position, we then agreed to the arrangement as the property appeared to be in good repair and seemed suitable enough to occupy.

It was around late May when we decided to accept this opportunity which is just around the corner from the rainy season. The final agreement amounted to acting as the owner’s “insurance” policy as we were to live on this farm rent free and watch over the property while he went north for the summer. To us this all-expenses-paid deal was like door number #3 on “Let’s Make A Deal” and we won the grand prize!! We were ecstatically excited at how blessed we were and how good God had been to us.

The next week we brought our little camper right up to the front door of this makeshift-apartment-equipment-shed-combination building and began unloading all our belongings into this place while we were day dreaming of how great it would be living there. By now the owner had left for Michigan and the repairman was still puttering around making his finishing touches.

NO TURNING BACK

At this point in our lives we had come to the place where God was the driving force and passion in our lives. We had fallen in love with Him so deeply that we desired Him like a drowning man wants air. We had come through six years of incredible hardships but nothing we went through could shake our commitment and dedication to the all powerful, all loving God we served. The more stuff we seemed to go through, somehow, the more loyal we became because nothing mattered accept knowing Christ and serving Him. In fact, all we had been through we just considered as the last “chapter” and now we were embarking on another new adventure. We went and did whatever, whenever with whoever and wherever God planted us until He would open the next door for us. This meant that quitting was never an option no matter how bad things got because we wanted to please Him as He was our heart’s delight.

However, I think this would be a good place for a disclaimer – We clearly see now that anything free is not always good and all would do well to remember that!!! This is really a no-brainer but it takes a few times around the mountain before all the insanities of life start making sense!!

THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS

Two weeks after we moved in and the owner was long gone, it began to rain. We soon discovered that the roof leaked in three different places, every sink leaked and the worst of it was that the toilet would not flush when it rained and it rained like Noah’s flood every day much like monsoon season. Thus, our daily routine without a workable toilet meant we had to use a five gallon paint bucket with a garbage bag and had to dump it every day.

As the rainy season progressed, we also noticed that the whole apartment-equipment-shed just kind of sat in the middle of a big pool and there was mud 500 feet in every direction. The whole place was like one big swamp. Even worse was the fact that the summers in Florida are unbearable with 90+ degree heat and intense humidity higher many times than the temperatures every day. This was especially worse for us since this apartment had no air conditioning and our Chevy van we’d acquired by then had no air conditioning.

Another annoying factor was that a large neighborhood dog kept consistently leaving piles of droppings all around the property. All this produced incredible stress and discomfort and made us rather irritable especially when the repairman the owner had chosen was more of a “Tim, the tool man” kind of guy who couldn’t even repair a leaky faucet!

For employment, we had been working some temporary jobs and unexpectedly one day a friend of ours left his whole handyman business to us before he left town. We thought this was just great too until we learned after he had left that the jobs were everything from mowing lawns to tarring driveways to house painting and barely paid enough to keep the equipment going. Fortunately as we prayed God shut this door as more and more we were getting less and less requests for these jobs. We then decided to apply elsewhere to find something more financially secure when we finally got hired as cleaning technicians for the local United Telephone Company.

LIVING IN THE PITS

What that amounted to was that each night from 5:00 p.m. till 1:00 a.m. we cleaned one whole floor the size of K-Mart. That was exhausting enough but then we had to face coming home each night. It was an actual feat just getting from the van to the apartment.

The moment we stepped out of the van in the pitch darkness you could clearly hear the sounds of deepest Africa…the mating call of the alligator (and I do know what that sounds like!!), the choruses of tree frogs, an occasional cry of a heron and masses of crickets and swarms of mosquitoes.

However, I was ready… I was armed with a jacket, eyeglasses, an umbrella, an old pair of shoes, the keys, my purse, our lunch buckets, a hat, and a can of bug spray. I carried everything just in case some monster or Big Foot jumped out at me in which case Vince would be free of any encumbrances and easily be able to rescue me. He carried the flashlight.

Five nights a week we had to make this trek to the apartment 500 feet away from where we parked our van, trudging through the mud, swatting at the mosquitoes, locating the dog piles, scanning the ground with the flashlight while looking for alligators and snakes and praying to escape all these. Upon reaching the door, I would put on the hat and eyeglasses while skillfully balancing all my gear and proceed to hose down the front door with bug spray to deter them from swarming into our kitchen. Once inside, we’d run for the lights and plop down exhausted and then discover what had decided to visit our apartment while we were away. Regularly we would find spiders, snakes, crickets and large ants and about anything else that would do anything to get away from all that mud and water.

The weekends too were also miserable as we would do anything to get out of the stifling heat and intense humidity. It’s pretty bad when you want to go anywhere but home.

I WAS BEGINNING TO REACH MY LIMIT – SPIDER INVASION

One night we had just gotten home and sat down to do some reading before going to bed. I was sitting on the couch and happened to put my book down and put my head on the back of the couch when looked up and saw a spider the size of Chicago in the reflection of the light on the ceiling!! These creatures are called banana spiders down here. Most of them are 3 inches across, which includes the body and leg span – which are horrifying creatures that are as fast as the wind and impossible to catch, let alone kill.

My breath froze as I stared in disbelief as I never remember them being that large. Moving VERY slowly, not daring to take my eyes off that creature, I rose from the couch while telling Vince that he had to kill that thing that night or I would not be able to sleep the entire night. He knows the truth of that statement so he went to get a broom from the shed and then began the battle between him and the spider. I went to putter in the kitchen all the while hearing the swats and bangs and doors opening and slamming shut as he proceeded from the living room to the bathroom and then to the office. Result? Spider -1, Vince – 0.

Ohhhh noooo, I thought. This is going to be a very L – O – N – G night as I would be spending it in the kitchen which was the farthest point from the office where the culprit was last seen. Resolving to the fact that I would be awake the rest of the night, we both went back to the living room to read and after a while I again put my book down and laid my head back on the couch and there — there, was that same spider in the exact same spot!! Could it be, I asked myself, blinking in unbelief??? Yes, there it was and I again arose from the couch talking in hushed tones to Vince telling him he had another chance. This time Vince won!

MY SHAVING CREAM BODY SUIT

Another night I was minding my own business in our upright stall shower taking a nice, long hot shower at 2:00 a.m. after we’d gotten home from our jobs when there was an incredible, deafening explosion as if a sawed-off shotgun had gone off right next to my ear. I shrieked a blood curdling scream in horror and opened my eyes to find thick, white foam everywhere. It was all over me, all over the walls, the shower curtain, the ceiling and floor. At that moment Vince burst into the bathroom, flung open the shower curtain and after seeing I was unharmed, burst into uncontrollable laughter.

Needless to say, I was violently shaking and stunned at first. But then I began to look around to see what in the world had almost given me a heart attack and covered me with white foam. It was then I had discovered that the seam on his shaving cream can had rusted through and this caused all the pressure in the can to be released in one huge explosion rendering everything in the shower with white foam!! At that realization I too “exploded” into laughter so hard I could hardly breathe. Then, gasping for air, it dawned on me that this metal can could have easily severed an arm or a leg and yet here I was just dripping wet and white!! I know that God amazingly protected me from certain harm by sending some angel from somewhere at the exact moment of that explosion. How excellent is God’s care of us!!

ALL SOAPED UP AND NO PLACE TO GO

And just to keep you up to speed about how much worse things could have gotten, another night I was in this same shower at 2:00 a.m. and was all soaped up when the water just shut off (“Why is it always me, Lord?”). I yelled in a very accusing tone wondering what Vince had done now and of course he was innocently reading a book and answered that he was going outside to investigate. I heard him go out the front door of the apartment and then heard him scream, “Oh my gosh!” as he came running back into the apartment shouting that there was a twenty-foot geyser in the front yard and that he was going to look for the shut off valve.

He finally located it but was unable to repair the pipe and then realized that the entire palm tree farm irrigation system was linked to the plumbing in our apartment. That was another no-brainer and needless to say, a very soapy sponge bath ensued. The next day we also discovered that we neglected to turn the water heater off and it burned out during the night which meant even the luxury of hot water was nonexistent for about a week and I sure wasn’t going to have the owner’s repairman fix it!!

MUD PUPPY?? – WAS THIS ON THE ARK?!?!

Another day Vince had an errand to run and it was pouring down rain when he left. As the water around the place was about six inches deep and getting deeper, I just decided to sit by the window and watch it get worse and worse when I noticed a mud puppy struggling in the mud. He finally managed to find deeper water and I watched him swim by each window as he traveled around the whole circumference of the apartment. And for those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s kind of a fish with fins that are more like arms. As I am watching this, I am thinking to myself, what in the world am I doing here????

A LITTLE WHINE & CHEESE

Now, between all the roof leaks, the broken toilet and water heater, the swamp, the daily extreme heat and humidity, the creatures in and around our apartment, the dog piles, the mud and flooding, the unexpected “fun-filled” events, the incompetent repairman who wanted to drop by at any time unannounced to use our shower, the torrents of rain, and fighting all this, I was really an emotional wreck. After four months of this nonsense, I was really reaching my limit and I must admit that my attitude was less than joyous.

Through all these trials I had been giving myself to misery. For years through all the struggles, heartbreaks and hardships I had made the choice to wallow in self pity, depression, frustration, rage, with a dash of discouragement, confusion, complaining, periodic crying and just a general habit of throwing a tantrum!!! My actions were completely out of control and my emotions and feelings were ruling me and I wasn’t too shy about talking about it all either. The enemy was controlling, manipulating and tormenting me by causing these problems and circumstances and I was acting JUST LIKE HIM!! The trials and temptations are really a set up from the enemy and I was playing right into his hand by giving him all the responses he was looking for.

It never dawned on me that through Christ I could live detached from all this torment and that I could live in complete peace and joy from communing with God every day IN SPITE of what was going on around me. I normally had a quiet time with God every day and prayed and read my Bible almost every day but it hadn’t really made any difference in my life when it came to how to handle and apply it to these daily torments.

GOD OPENED MY UNDERSTANDING

Then one evening as my nerves were frayed from the overwhelming frustrations of the day and the complete disgust and contempt I had living in this swamp, that I found myself reading Romans 5:1-5: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, and not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience and patience worketh experience and experience worketh hope and hope maketh not ashamed…”

…And I noticed the cross-reference of this verse was James 1:3, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” The “knowing this” in this verse is revealed in verse 2, which is: “My brethren, count it all J-O-Y when ye fall into diverse temptations.” Well, that triggered a real anger within me and I cried out to God in exasperated frustration and I said out loud, “Just how do you expect me to rejoice in all this?”

I didn’t get an answer right away so I opened another book I had been reading by Rev. Jamie Buckingham entitled, “Where Eagles Soar”, and I stumbled on a Bible verse that IGNITED my soul and spirit!!

Here was my answer!! It was Hebrews 12:26 to 29: “Whose voice then shook the earth, but now He hath promised, saying, yet once more I shake not the earth only but also heaven. And this word, “yet once more” signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; For our God is a consuming fire.”

The moment I read those words it was as if I was on F I R E!!! I then heard the voice of the Lord in my spirit and He said, “I’m shaking you to see that what remains is pleasing to me.”

And then the most unexpected thing happened. Waves and billows of the love of God began to wash over me which seemed like a waterfall. It truly was so real it almost pushed me over and I felt like the weight of the entire world had just been taken off of my shoulders. Tears of sheer joy began pouring down my face as God’s all consuming and overpowering inner peace overwhelmed me. I just sat there sobbing and weeping and allowing Him to saturate my life and inner being as I abandoned myself to Him. Then, through the tears I said, “God, now I can go through anything just for you!!” This was a deep, impassioned promise that came forth from the very depths of my soul in response to His passionate love for me.

A PURPOSE AMIDST THE INSANITY

These few verses had released all my torment and had given me an overwhelming inner peace that forever changed the course of my life. All these trials had brought me to a defining moment. I had needed to draw a line in the sand and stand my ground in God for a long time instead of acting like a spoiled child. Once I did that, everything from that point on began to make sense. This breakthrough had opened my eyes to see the real battle raging within me revealing that, although these circumstances were driving me insane, this was meant for my ultimate good.

Biblical truths teach us that to overcome the enemy we must quit giving ourselves over to him. I was doing that by throwing my tantrums and allowing my circumstances to control me and make me miserable. My soulish, fleshly nature was at the heart of my problem as I was acting out of anger, disappointment and frustration. We’d been going through this for years. I came to the realization that God desired for me to rise to a level above the torments of the enemy and to fix my attention on Him. Although outside circumstances were greatly affecting me, the heart of the problem was that my inner happiness depended on them instead of God. I realized I needed a new nature, the nature Christ agonizingly died for me to have and it was high time I made the effort to receive what He had already provided.

The best way to answer any problem in this life is to look in the pages of the Bible and I truly found some wonderful scriptures that helped me do this:

Galatians 5:19-21 – This completely explains the old nature and everyone can find themselves somewhere in these verses.

Galatians 5:23-25 – This is how the new nature looks which is the Godly nature He births in us after salvation. This is what a mature Christian looks like who has learned to rise above situations and overcome what the enemy throws at us.

Ephesians 6:10-18 – These are the weapons God has given us to succeed and what defines the characteristics of a real Christian.

When we had no money for food or bills, or when the car needed to be repaired and we didn’t have the gas to get the car to the repair shop, much less afford the repairs, or when our vehicle caught on fire, or when we lost a $2,000,000 property and two locations of our business that we built for six years, year in and year out we learned to rejoice and worship God regardless of all outside circumstances. We made the quality decision to delight ourselves in Him.

In ALL the hard times, the painful times, the difficult times, the panic-filled times, rejoicing and worshiping began to be a way of life and just in that principle alone, we discovered so many treasures, so many miracles, so much peace, so many rewards. In those times our rejoicing brought God on the scene and He takes notice because you are honoring Him above all your trials. THAT is the level we are to rise to above the torments of the enemy and one of the very best ways to defeat the enemy. Worship IS warfare.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Learning that my real happiness was not in my surroundings, or in any given situation or circumstance but in the depths of Christ himself, had brought me to a higher level in Him. No longer could outside influences steal my peace and joy, for God had become my joy and strength and source for everything. He had given me a firm foundation and stability in Him that was sure, steadfast and immovable!! Through the years the Lord amazingly “sharpened” this attitude of worship in Him so that it became our second nature.

AS PAUL HARVEY USED TO SAY, NOW, FOR THE REST OF THE STORY…

After I had received this impartation from God, rejoicing had begun to be effortless for me. The enemy didn’t have his hook in me any longer so I began making real progress. I was incredibly peaceful and just began waiting on God with a whole new attitude. Amazingly nothing at all had changed yet all the things that bothered me before had no bearing on me at all. I just didn’t seem to notice them anymore. I had a fresh, new beginning and a real joy and peace within that was really indescribable.

In less than two weeks a door opened for us to rent a cozy, two-bedroom, upstairs apartment with a balcony overlooking a small pool in a lovely setting in a small apartment complex. This was in a very convenient location for our jobs and in a nice neighborhood and all at once all the finances came together for it at the same time. God truly has perfect timing. This was also the end of the rainy season and at the same time when the owner returned.

As we had almost no furniture, we had to sleep on the floor of the apartment for two weeks before we got our next pay checks to buy a bed but we finally had delightful air conditioning, dependable plumbing and no more mud puppies!!! I came away from the swamp with a rock solid, unshakable spiritual foundation in my life that had stood the test of resisting the onslaught of the enemy and my reward was truly a comfort I had never expected. It was a reality and feeling like no other. It had been permanently implanted in my soul. I had finally reached Christian adolescence having walked away, through the power of Christ, from the emotional tantrums of Christian infancy. I had become an active warrior and had received a spiritual and material promotion.

And…I found that our lives can be joyous no matter what the enemy throws at us or whose swamp we’re living in!!

AFTER THOUGHTS AND LESSONS LEARNED

The presence of God was so strong in my life after that. I had learned something that no one could take away from me and it had great eternal value and a refreshing contentment. I had come through this with a greater love and understanding of God and a greater passion to serve Him.

Every tear and every trial we suffered was worth it all because we learned how to defeat the enemy God’s way. As a result, He has delivered us on the other side of that chastening where we now live a peaceable life, better than I ever thought possible.

We are now seeing God’s multiplied goodness to us every day because:

1. We didn’t run from our trials. In fact, we decided to make the most of them

2. We learned to face them and go through them with a deliberate good attitude

3. We deliberately rejoiced and glorified God in the worst of times

4. We learned to control our words and our thoughts by choosing joy every day

5. We refused to give up and learned to forgive

6. We totally believed that God had good things in store for us

7. We discovered that tests, trials and tough times are God’s way of training us for greatness. This is just like a parent will train his child, so God trains believers

8. We learned that this process changes our sinful nature into His nature

9. We learned we couldn’t do it without His help, His word, His comfort or guidance

10. We learned that there are seasons in God and that nothing lasts forever and to be content with where we are today.

Each battle we successfully win gives us godly wisdom and strength to help coach others along the way who are fainting under the onslaught of the enemy. Many times the purpose for what you are going through right now is so that you can help so many others as they are good through many of the same things you have gone through. They too are suffering unthinkable, horrible pressures and stresses because they haven’t got a clue as to how to deal with what life throws at them. When you learn to live a disciplined, Spirit-controlled life, and you have gone through what they are currently going through, you have an incredible window of opportunity to encourage them and speak into their lives the powerful truths you have learned while on your journey in God.

Those who choose to defy the enemy by persistently fighting him through love and faith in God, will be the leaders of tomorrow because this is what qualifies them for greatness and promotion. When we aggressively pursue God by loving Him passionately, we will have spent our time wisely and not wasted our lives.

Communing with God on a daily basis brings a life directed and guided by the Holy Spirit which brings real peace and joy and eternal results. While most of humanity is being destroyed for lack of knowledge, we will have applied ourselves to a higher call and taken on the challenge to empower those who will train up the next generation of overcomers.

MAY YOU SEEK TO KNOW THE DEPTHS OF GOD, BECAUSE IN THE SEEKING IS THE AMAZING DISCOVERY OF ATTAINING THINGS WORTH MORE THAN GOLD AND BECOMING SOMETHING FAR GREATER THAN YOU EVER EXPECTED.

May His Peace and Presence Invade Your Lives,

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 Posted on : May 4, 2014
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