Monday, July 4, 2011

What my cats teach me about God part 2

My black cat Neil is 13 years old now. When he was young, he used to defend his territory (my back yard patio) with a vengeance; I had to take him to the 24 hour animal hospital twice to get wounds cleaned after fights. Now, however, he is more tentative, and will meow at the window when an intruder is present. Several times I have then gone out and chased it away. I thought that was going to happen the other day when I saw him meowing and pacing, but Neil surprised me by running out the door when I opened it. A cat I call Black Cat With White Feet (BCWWF) was present, and he jumped up on the fence, but fell back to the ground. The two tussled, then Neil ran back inside the house. BCWWF climbed the fence again, I shouted “Go!” and he left. I went back inside to make sure Neil was not hurt. There was a lot of dust and dirt on his fur, but he was OK. Neil is such an object lesson for me. He didn’t need to fight that battle at all. He risked injury without needing to. Fortunately, everything turned out OK. I gave Neil treats and told him he was a good boy. I was proud of his courage, but there was no need for him to fight that battle because I would have gladly fought it for him.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What my cats teach me about God

Biblical references to cats and dogs
Cats: Jesus is called “The lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev 5:5)
Dogs: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)
This proves that cats are better than dogs.
Just kidding! I love dogs too!

My two cats: Neil and Ravi.

In defense of cats: dogs are pack animals, cats are not. Their social interactions are different. If you don’t like cats, that’s fine, but don’t blame cats, blame God. He designed them.

Neil (the black cat, whose name means “champion”) is my “crown prince”. He is:
  • Handsome, elegant, and regal
  • Extremely skittish with anyone but me
  • High strung. His tail is often thrashing, something a favorite cat web site calls “flippety”
  • Sometimes ill tempered; will arise from the couch and go over and start picking on Ravi for no reason

How he reminds me of my relationship with God:
  • Part of the reason for Neil’s skittishness is his background: feral, traumatically separated from Momma, unsocialized as a kitten
  • I love his little quirks (like God loves His children)
  • I love it when he sits on my lap. I wish he would stay longer, but because he is so restless he usually only stays a little while and then moves on. How often does God wish we would spend more time with Him?

  • From the time I first adopted him at the age of 3 months I have fed him first thing every morning. But, if there is any delay in getting the canned food on the plate, he will begin to meow. “Don’t you trust me, Neil?”

  • Because of his medium length fur he occasionally gets tangles which will not come out. I cut them out with scissors, but it is very hard to do because he will not stay still and will not trust me. “Neil, I’m trying to help you!” Often I need to do it in multiple sessions because he gets so agitated, when I could have cut them all out the first time.
Ravi (the orange and white tabby, named after Ravi Zacharias the Christian apologist) is my “clown prince.” He is:

  • Good natured, laid back, and likes belly rubs; he will flop on the floor to get them.
  • Very funny and makes me laugh all the time

  • More destructive than Neil (claws the furniture) but I don’t care because he rolls over and looks adorable (am I co-dependent or what?)
How he reminds me of my relationship with God
  • I like to tell him “I picked you out!” (from the AZ Humane Society) and think about how God picked me out although I was not seeking Him.
  • I am the youngest of 6 children. My mother, who has since passed away, used to tell me “No matter how old you get, you will always be my baby.” It used to drive me crazy, and I didn’t like it when she would introduce me to her friends as “Bethie”. However, I do fondly think of Ravi as more of a kitten than Neil, and have pet nicknames for him, like “Ravi-Wan Kenobi” and “Sweet Boy”.

What I love about cats
Beauty – many color patterns which are God’s canvass
Agility, athleticism, body control, leaping ability
Ability to purr
Retractable claws
Their manner of walking is different from almost every other animal (legs on the same side move together)

According to the Animal Planet show “The Most Extreme”, the most extreme predator is … the domestic housecat. Because it kills for fun. Neil is a good hunter and sometimes brings in critters through the cat door. It’s slowed down a lot now that he is older, but he’s brought in birds (alive and dead), cockroaches, moths, cicadas, and small lizards. Once he brought in a caterpillar. I asked him: “Neil, what are you going to do with that?” Since it wasn’t fun to chase, he threw it up in the air in an attempt to have fun with it.

What I love about animals
You can touch them freely and it’s not weird
Communication is simplified
No hidden agendas – interactions are simple and straightforward

I never expected to have a cat. Adopting one seemed to happen by accident when my co-worker was giving away kittens born in his back yard. I used to think that I didn’t like cats. But after I got my first one I wanted another, and now I am so happy that I have them. Sometimes we don’t know what’s good for us.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Another Revelation about Revelation

“Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake.” (Revelation 16:18)

Seven years ago I spent a day exploring Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Although it had been 22 years since the mountain exploded, evidence of destruction was as conspicuous as that of regrowth. When the narrator of one of the videos at the visitors’ center cheerfully announced, “The mountains in this range are still active, and will erupt again one day”, I looked around at Mt. St. Helens, Mt Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and a chill came over me as I thought of the above verse.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Sobering Thought

The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. (Revelation 16:2)

I’ve never been very interested in studying the end times, since even the 1st century Christians thought that Jesus was coming back in their lifetime. Every generation seems to hope that they will be the ones (at least, the ones who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture). However, I went out with a hospice nurse the other day, and we visited a client who has MRSA (an antibiotic-resistant infection that has become increasingly common). I asked how this woman could have contracted it, and she said that as health care workers, both she and I would probably test positive for MRSA … it’s around, sometimes having become part of the body’s normal bacterial flora, and people are not aware that they have it. She said that it can manifest as painful boils … and I immediately thought of the above passage.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reflections on co-dependency

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ … for each one should carry his own load. (Galatians 6:2a, 5)

Co-dependency involves doing too much for a person, because “each one should carry his own load”. A friend in a 12 step group gave me this definition of enabling: “Doing something for someone that the person needs to do for him or herself”. I do not believe that people are free from co-dependency when they let other people take care of their responsibilities without their help while they concentrate on taking care of their own responsibilities. I do not think that that approach is caring, I think it is selfish. It also does not demonstrate interdependence, which should define healthy relationships.

One of the keys is WHY you are helping the other person. If you are doing it to enhance your self esteem, then you may have good intentions, but you are not truly loving, because you are doing it for yourself and often out of compulsion. The main way that I can tell that I am enabling someone is when I start to resent them. Then I realize that I am helping them because I think I have to rather than because I really want to. Caring done out of compulsion is not true caring. True caring is done because you want to, and you don't care what the person's response is. It is giving an unconditional gift. God’s love is like that.

In addition to WHY you are helping the person, the other key is WHAT IS THE BEST WAY to help them. Usually the best way to help people is to empower them (unless they are truly not capable). The reason that this is better than doing it for them is because it helps them learn and grow as people, whereas doing something for them often results in them doing and learning very little. That is why I like my friend's question: "Am I doing something for this person that he/she needs to be doing for him or herself?" to determine if I am helping too much (i.e. enabling). Helping people with their ordinary day-to-day responsibilities is done when you WANT TO. I find that not only do I feel resentful towards people when I enable them, but they resent me also because I am not treating them like responsible, capable adults. Enabling is very destructive to relationships.

When people are going through difficult experiences (loss, illness, etc.) that is the time to help them even if you don’t want to (“carry each other’s burdens”) – that is sacrificial love. The amazing thing is that as we are conformed to the image of Christ, we WANT TO help people more and more, so it becomes a joy rather than a sacrifice.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Disputable Matter

“Accept those whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1)

Division in the Church of Jesus Christ grieves me. A new Christian once asked me “Why are there so many different churches and denominations?” It was hard to answer! There is a lot of quarreling among different Christian groups.

“That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21)

Are you seeing that? I see some, but not as much as I would like. What did Jesus say would be the result of Christian unity? “That the world may believe.” Now, I’m not saying we should abandon the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. If we cannot unify around these, such as that Jesus was God, that He died on the cross to defeat the power of sin and death and make it possible for us to be reconciled to the Father, that He was resurrected, etc. then we cannot be in unity. The big question is, what is an essential doctrine and what is a disputable matter?

I believe that the role of women in the church is a disputable matter. My personal conviction is that women can Biblically take on a variety of roles in the church, including being a pastor, and I would defend my position with scriptural support. I know and am friends with other people who believe that women can Biblically take on only certain prescribed roles, also based on their understanding of scripture. I have seen some very severe division and fighting between the two sides over this issue. I wish both sides would agree to disagree on this issue so that we could be in unity “that the world may believe.”

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Faith in What?

Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22)

I was raised Presbyterian and am now a member of an independent charismatic church. I often feel torn between these two worlds, between “sola scriptura” (a statement of the Reformation that the Bible alone should be the authority), and the reality that God still speaks to us today (John 10:27). One of the aspects of some streams of the charismatic movement that has always bothered me is the emphasis on faith as a kind of tool to be wielded. The other day I read the following, which I found very helpful:

“In some Christian circles an unhealthy emphasis is placed on positive thinking or positive confession – the idea that whatever we believe or verbally affirm will become a reality. Although it is a mark of vibrant faith to maintain a Biblical optimism in the face of obstacles, an overemphasis on positive thinking may come perilously close to the New Age idea that thought controls reality and that we are masters of the world. This view overlooks the mystery of God’s providence, his final control of all events.”
Douglas Groothuis, “Unmasking the New Age”, p. 172

As Mark 11:22 says, our faith is in God, not in faith itself.