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Devotion -- April 22 -- "Attack of the Rat"

What does Jesus’ victory over death have to do with the disciples moving from hiding on Easter morning, to be willing to die for the Gospel message later in their ministries (Tradition holds all but one of the disciples died a martyr’s death)? The answer is that they came to believe God’s presence was stronger than anything they faced. Because of this belief, they were able to face difficult and terrifying times with boldness. That’s important, because fear can often cause us to run away from things that we need to face. Let me explain. As a prelude, let me answer a question that often arises when I write or tell a story. It’s this: “Do you exaggerate certain details when you tell a story?” My answer is: I never exaggerate. So with that in mind, let me tell you about my encounter I (and Ann and the boys) had with a rat, the size of our Toyota Corolla. In our second year in Argyle, I got up one morning and went into the garage, only to find something had ripped open the garbage bag. Knowing the old wooden garage doors were such that a cat could squeeze in, I blamed it on a stray cat. The next morning the garbage was strewn around again, and the same on the third day. I was starting to get pretty angry at cats. On this third day, Ann came out to help me clean up the mess. When we were done, I decided to cut the lawn and grabbed hold of the lawnmower. Ann was still in the garage with Andy in one arm and Lee off to her right. When I started to move the lawn mower, a steroid-infused rat came flying out from under it, and went scurrying under some other items in the garage. As soon as I saw that beast, I ran past Ann and the boys, out the garage door and didn’t stopped until I felt I was a safe distance away. Now, when Ann tells this story, she’ll point out that I left her and the boys to die at the hands of this mammoth animal. But, that’s not true. In my defense, I explicitly remember telling them to run, when I passed by them. I was only showing them what they should be doing. And secondly, when Ann yelled for me to come back and get Lee, I did return to the garage entrance and called for him to come and take my hand. That he chose to stay by his mother and die, well, I can’t help stupid. Now I don’t want you to think, I’m not genetically connected to my fore-parents who were rugged men and women who faced many a creature and conquered them – for I am. I knew I had to take down that rat for the sake of the family. So, I promptly went to Wenger’s Hardware store in Argyle and got the biggest rat trap I could find. I baited it and set it out in the middle of the garage. Then with a confident laugh, I called out to the Chihuahua sized rat that his day had come. The following morning I went out to the garage to claim victory, only to find the rat trap turned over, blood all over the floor, but no rat. I sized up the situation and concluded that it had to be dead, laying somewhere in the garage. But, to be safe, I picked up a metal three-prong garden rake and began hunting for it. Guess what? The rat wasn’t dead! I found him in the back corner of the garage, blooded, but very much alive! When it saw me, it didn’t cower or run for cover, it began hissing and then ran right at me! To this day I have no idea how I got through the garage doors, which could only be opened from the outside, but I did! I ran into the house through the back door, locking it as I went, for who knew how diabolical that rat was. I told Ann that the Cujo the rat was still alive and had tried to kill me. Thankfully, she didn’t mock me, or say “serves you right,” instead she said, “Why don’t you call someone who can take care of the problem.” And I did. I called Greg Stamm who I knew did a lot of trapping. I explained the situation and an hour later he came over to the house with a high powered bb-gun. I told him that he needed a shot-gun, or a 22, but he said he was fine. He opened the garage door and began rummaging through things looking for the rat. He wasn’t wearing gloves, or protective gear and he moved with a sense of ease. I was amazed at how calm he was. It turns out that either my threat of killing him with a garden rake, or the pain inflicted on his ears by my high pitched scream when I ran out of the garage (for the second time, Ann will gleefully point out), convinced him it was a good time to leave. So, off he went either to die (which I doubt) or to terrorize someone else (my prayers are with you). Looking back at that event, I see there was one huge difference between Greg and I when it came to the rat re-incarnation of Cujo. I was afraid of him and Greg wasn’t. I worried what it could do to me, while Greg was sure he had more than enough power to defeat even the largest of all rats. On Good Friday, Jesus faced the greatest of all powers – sin, death and the power of the devil, and on Easter Sunday, he showed his power was greater. Because of that, the disciples were able to live bold and fearless lives as well. They knew the power with them was greater than anything they would ever face. In the coming months, we are all going to be picking up the pieces of our damaged life, that Covid-19 has brought upon us and our community and economy. We are going to have to face some tough days and difficult situations. As we do, let us all remember this: The One who is with us, is, and always will be, greater than anything we face. So let us face it together and let us face it boldly. God’s blessings to you all, Dan

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