Thursday, January 04, 2001

"BEHOLD: The Power of Cheese"

I was content to live and let live. Really, I was. I am not a violent person. Sheila, however …

I first heard the noise last summer while I was enjoying some afternoon Sabbath rest. It was a scurrying kind of sound. I looked out of our second story window toward the rain gutter thinking it was a bird walking in the gutter. Nothin’. Every Sunday afternoon the same thing happened. It sounded like it was just outside of our window. There was never anything there except the noise.

As we moved into the fall the noise seemed to disappear… most of the time. Every once in a while it would show up again. But, hey, live and let live. I can coexist with a little noise. I live in a small house with two teenagers and two elementary kids! Still didn’t know what it was but I had no clue how to figure it out.

In October Sheila was in the attic straightening our stuff and looked into a dollhouse stored "up there." She noticed that something had been sleeping in Papa Bear’s bed. Wait, no that’s a different story. She really did notice that something had eaten the ends off of a package of plastic hotdogs. (Don’t ask me why we have plastic hotdogs in our attic) There were also shreds of tissues scattered about. Ah, the plot thickened.

In November Sheila went into the attic to grab the Thanksgiving decorations. Sheila pulled out her cornhusk dolls designed to look like pilgrims. She’s had them for years, but there was something very different about them this year. I’m not an observant guy, but even I noticed the change. Something had eaten their faces. (Boy, did we have fun with that). They were in mint condition – except now they were faceless. Just two more faceless pilgrims in the crowds of life. After Thanksgiving Sheila was putting decorations away and found that ears of dried Indian corn she’d left in the attic had been completely stripped and the kernals taken. Whatever was "up there" had not only eaten the faces off of the pitiful pilgrims but had also robbed her decorative door hanging and left her the cobs behind.

I was amused but SHEILA WAS NOT HAPPY. Being a peace loving kind of person, she didn’t want to do anything vicious so she bought a pest preventing gadget. The idea is to plug it into an electrical outlet to emit a high pitched sound wave and thus chase away any varmints. We didn’t hear the noise anymore and thought our visitors from "up there" had vacated the premises.

In December Sheila once again ascended the stairs into the attic. After sending all the other Christmas stuff to the living room, Sheila carried down her box of angel ornaments. As she walked she heard rattling. Her angels have not, do not and never will rattle. Most are made of soft, lightweight materials that cannot rattle. The thought crossed her mind that a glass angel might have broken. She unpacked the angels to find, wonder of wonders, kernals of Indian corn nicely squirreled away and tissues neatly gathered for a nest. Whatever was "up there" had no plans of leaving anytime soon.

I was amused. Very amused. Amber was amused. Chadd was amused. But SHEILA WAS NOT HAPPY. Nor was she amused.

Those animals could have probably grown to a ripe old age, sitting in very small rocking chairs in the dollhouse, afghans lying across their laps, sipping cocoa and roasting plastic hotdogs in the fireplace except that they made a fatal mistake… They made Sheila mad. I have lived long enough to discover that it is not good when the mom of any family gets mad. And those mammals had made momma mad. She came home from the store with two very crude devices of destruction – mousetraps. She "asked" me to load them. I am not a violent person, but whatever was "up there" made momma mad. So using two small pinches of colby longhorn cheese I set the traps and placed one on each side of the attic entrance.

The next afternoon I was sitting at the desk in my office when I got a call. I had been there all day, many things on my mind. "We have success!" I heard my otherwise gentle wife scream on the other end of the line. Like a good husband my mind raced trying desperately to figure out what that meant, thinking I was obviously supposed to know and that I was probably in trouble if I couldn't figure it out quickly. Nothing came to mind.

"What in the world are you talking about?" I innocently asked.

"We have success ‘up there’. Both traps." she nearly shouted with delight.

"Oh. Well, did you take them out of the traps?"

"No way. That’s your job!" my gentle wife replied.

When I got home that evening I went "up there." She was right. Two small gray mice had met their maker in our devices of death. They should have known not to make momma mad. That was the end of our noise.

It wasn’t really the trap that got them. It was the cheese. One of the mice smelled the colby, scurried over and took a nibble. It had to be appealing after working so hard on all that dried corn. With the tasty treat, though, came the trap and the end of life. And I can just imagine the second mouse watch the first get caught, shed a mousy tear for his brother and then look at the other trap. "I never did think he was all that smart," he whispered to himself as he approached the other pinch of cheese. "He couldn't get it, but I'll be able to grab the cheese before the same thing happens to me. It won't happen to me. I’ll be able to get the cheese without the pain." He tried and quickly followed mouse number 1 to his eternal destiny. The power of cheese. Pretty stupid mice, don’t you think? Risking it all for a pinch of longhorn.

We'd never do that, would we? Sure we do. The desire for something moves us to ignore danger. We know what we want is wrong but we justify our actions and think we can get it without pain. But we can't and we pay the price. There is something in each of our lives that tempts us to risk all to get it. We even lie to ourselves as we watch others bring sorrow into their lives telling ourselves that other "mice" might not be able to get the cheese without pain, but we can. We scoff at high profile people like Robert Downey, Jr. or Darryl Strawberry. But everybody has cheese in his life. Everybody.

What is the cheese in your life? That which tempts you with great power, promising satisfying reward but delivering destruction and sorrow? I know what it is for myself. Now that I am older and wiser, I recognize that I must guard myself and run away from it. Otherwise I will not survive. The power of cheese is real and it is strong. We dare not mess with it, but claim the promises and power of God to say no. I hope you will.

"But remember this--the wrong desires that come into your life aren't anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation's power so that you can bear up patiently against it." 1 Corinthians 10:13 (TLB)

Be blessed and BE BOLD!

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