Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Greatest of These

This is Dooley (hi Dooley)!
Dooley is my very favorite cat (I won't tell you out of how many).  I'd say don't tell the other cats that he's my favorite, but they probably know (or, since they are cats, they don't care).

Dooley was a stray kitten afraid of everyone.  Now he's an adult and afraid of everyone except me and an extremely short list of other people.  He nags me at dinner time.  He nags me when it's time to go to bed (somehow he grasped the time change).

But when I first brought Dooley home from rescuing him from his homelessness, he hissed at me.  He spat.  He did not love me.  After two days of this, I lectured him that no one would like a hateful cat, and if he expected to have house privileges, he better change his attitude.  Strangely it worked.

Dooley stopped hating me.  When I saw him next, he laid down and flipped over on his back and showed me his belly, doing that weird cute thing with his head that cats do to let you know they are actually charming beings.

I was wary, but it turned out that he meant it.  Ever since then, he sleeps on my bed every night.  Now at the age of ten, he sleeps on it every day too, which is worrisome for the comforter's hair threshold.  I love Dooley.  I am just crazy about him.

Jesus said that to love God with our whole HEART, MIND, SOUL, and STRENGTH.  Those are four different things!  Then he said, to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Neither of these are easy.  But if these two can be kept, then keeping the Big Ten are easy.  LOVING GOD isn't easy, and throwing in our feelings, our logic, our illogic, and our personality into it full stop is even more radical. 

How can it be done?

By realizing how much God LOVES US.  He takes us in as strays, who spit and fight him.  He cares for us unconditionally.  If we decide to trust Him, believe He is who He says He is, to understand that He sacrificed his one and only Son, for US, we get eternal house privileges.  As lousy as I can be, God loves me more.  Even when I change my attitude and love God, I still mess up.  And only through His own power can I love other annoying neighbors....the man who talks too much, the woman who is standing in my way....the child who will not stop shrieking....

We can't hate and love at the same time.  We can be annoyed, we can disagree, we can be confused, but we can't hate if we are saying that we love.  If I help the poor, I can not hate the rich.  If I have compassion for the refugee, I can not hate the policy enforcers.  If I disagree vehemently with world leaders, I still can't hate them if I say that I follow Jesus, who loves the unlovable.  In my humanness, I hate. But I have to give it up - it must be sacrificed.  And in my spitting imperfection, God pulls me close, whispers Jesus' name, and reminds me I'm forgiven, to go and sin no more.  To love my neighbor as myself. 

Considering how much I like me, this is a challenge.  But it's a life changing, world flipping mandate to love radically which can be done through God's own power.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

There's Always Hope

Meet Hope (hi Hope!).
Isn't she adorable?  And what a great name.  She's very sweet too.  Her name could be Sweet.  Her name could also be Hop.

Hope doesn't exactly know how to walk on a leash.  She also does not like to walk in water, slush, mud, or soft snow, all of which was in abundance while she was under my care.  The result was her resting her front paws on my lower back and hopping behind me.

No, I didn't get pictures.  It was equal parts cute and embarrassing.  People drove by at really inopportune times.

Sometimes my more annoying habits come out, just in time to annoy other people and embarrass them.  I don't want to do it, and often I don't mean to.  It's like I don't want to get my own hands dirty as I wade through the mud of my life. I'd rather grab onto someone else and see if they might help me out instead.

But I was made to walk on my own, and to do so in a healthy way.  God's power can and does heal old hurts and strengthen my weaknesses.

He allows me to love others who are also a bit grungy and annoying.  And He loves you too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"I Don't Like People"

This has been the mantra uttered by many.  It's bandied about like it's a cool thing.  People laugh.  "I like dogs but I don't like people."  Sure, I like dogs.  And, to be honest, I have often felt the same way about people.

But I don't feel that way anymore.  I realized when I said that, the implication was I'm better than others, and those poor saps better stay out of my cool self's way.

It's easy to like dogs.
Well....SOME dogs....
Running a kennel, I meet a lot of people of all educational and economical levels.  After sixteen years, I've learned to like people more than their dogs.  In fact, I'd say this change is nothing short of a miracle....a work of God in my life.

What started it?

One of my kennel clients was widely unliked by others.  But I saw this person with their dog.  When this dog died, my friend at the vet clinic told me how this person broke down and sobbed.  People are different with their dogs.  They are a lot more real and tender and vulnerable.

And so are you.  And so am I.  God knows the difference of who we may be at work or in the community.  He knows us our real self.  He loves us anyway.

Monday, March 3, 2014

His Eye is on the Sparrow

This morning, I kept thinking of the verse, "What is man that God art mindful of him?"  There's a lot of things that demand the attention of the Driver of the Universe, yet He pays attention to us meager humans.  We are a problematic species.  We either tromp all over, kicking others' sandcastles or we sit on the curb doing nothing.

Yet we matter.

Then I went downstairs to read and pray.  I saw a sparrow, puffed up from the cold, nipping at the snow.  God made a provision for the sparrow as it thirsts.  At my birdfeeder, the sparrows congregate, along with cardinals, nut hatches, and even the very nasty blue jays.
The sparrows, those that are considered a dime a dozen, practically worthless, and of the "no one will miss one" variety, are mentioned in God's word as having value. 

As sparrows congregate on the eaves, one of my cats watches from inside.  If she could, she'd snag one of them.  And God would know it.  He would care. 

It gives me a sense of peace to know that no matter what happens through the course of my day, God is mindful of me.  I am not insignificant.  And neither are you.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

This is Your Captain Speaking

This is Captain, my little yellow cat who is almost two years old. 
He looks adorable and peaceful, doesn't he?  LIES!  ALL LIES!

His assault on the birdfeeder is not uncommon.

His assaults on other peace-loving cats, also common:
Certainly mice are not safe (but I'm okay with that).

As you can see, Captain is a pest and a killer.  Inside, he often does naughty things beyond knocking things off the counters (and being on them to begin with).  Sometimes when I pet him, he takes aggressive swipes at me.  He is truly terrible.

Yet, I find that I love him.  I still feed him.  We play outside and in.  He chases Tilly and likes to help at the wood pile (though not as useful as one might hope).  He can be adorable when he cuddles up (those rare moments) with possibly the best purr ever. 

He was dumped off here as a tiny kitten who needed help.  It would be easy to look at his behavior and consider him completely ungrateful.

Then I think about how I'm not that different from this ornery cat.  God found me, helpless and in need of saving.  Often I am defiant, nasty, and even have taken a few swipes at God.  Yet he continues to love me eternally, even giving me good things.  Why am I not more grateful?

If for no other reason, I should remember that "God loves me anyway."  Even if my behavior is imperfect and my attitude leaves something to be desired, God's love endures forever.  That's something wonderful.