Monthly Archives: January 2012
Rolling a Cat
“Dogs have owners; cats have staff” seems to be the defining phrase of my world these days!
Now those of you who are familiar with cats are also acquainted with cat hair. One of the unpleasant experiences of being “owned” by a cat is the ever present challenge of corralling the hair cats seemingly shed at will. If they choose to do so, they can brush up against your leg as you are preparing to leave for a meeting and deposit a few metric tons of follicle debris on your clothes.
Enter the necessity of the “sticky rollers.” What has prompted this need is the propensity of these furry, follicle-d terrorists to deposit hair on clothing, bedding and furniture. Now the guy who invented these “sticky rollers” is laughing all the way to the bank—in reality they are nothing more than masking tape on a roll with the adhesive side out. For the inventor’s keen insight—not to mention his financial acumen—those in need happily pay a premium of four to five times the actual value of masking tape!
A few weeks back, I was busily removing cat hair from the sofa when one of these pelted jihadists jumped up on the sofa to see what I was doing. As he was undoing all of the work I was trying to accomplish and purring in the meantime (I also believe the purring sound is nothing more than the whirring of an internal hair ejector), I thought, “Why not just address the source of my difficulties?” Grabbing the unsuspecting furry militant, I began to sticky roll the cat! Not only did I remove an immense amount of hair directly at the source, the cat actually liked it!
As people, we often find ourselves in a similar quandary: we are constantly addressing the results and symptoms of our problems—our sins, but we rarely going to the source and seek to attend to the root cause of the “symptoms.” If we are constantly thinking “junk” thoughts, saying the wrong things or doing what we should not, these are just symptoms of the real problem. We cannot merely put a “band aid” on a symptom! We must fix the cause of the problems and change who we are.
The teaching of Jesus makes it clear it is what comes out of us which defiles us and causes sinful behavior. While a new coat of paint will make a wall look great, if it is infested with termites, it is still rotten. This is what motivated Jesus to call the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” in Matthew 23—they looked good on the outside, but inside they were filthy with sin! They were always concerned with symptoms, but would never address the causes.
In our personal lives, the greatest symptom often occurring is the problem with what we say. Too often we choose to overlook those who are constantly negative, always complaining and critical or those who claim to be Christians yet lack any identifying Christian characteristics. If someone is always cranky, irritating, negative and just a phenomenal “pain,” this just might be who they truly are. If being “nice” is the exception, then perhaps being unpleasant is who they actually are!
In Romans 14 the Apostle Paul states, “each of us will give an account of himself to God.” When we stand before Christ, we will not be able to give the excuse, “Well, I wasn’t aware,” or “I never really thought it through,” or “I was having a bad day!” God has given us leaders and people who are responsible for our spiritual well-being. The writer of Hebrews informs us to “Obey your leaders . . . [they are] those who will give an account [of you].” At that moment when we are before Christ, we will be without excuse: He has given us spiritual leaders (in the form of pastors and church leadership) and has placed His Spirit within every believer who is truly His.
I know, I know, this is not an overly acceptable position in our society! Yet I ask for some leeway here; while it may sound cool to think we are the “king of our domain,” and we relish the idea of “going it alone,” are we also willing to be cut off from sound advice and counsel?
Our society bristles at the thought of having to answer to another. Yet we live in a tough world. Even some of those who rebelled the most in the 1960’s have sung, “people who need people are the most wonderful people in the world.” Granted, this was sung from the perspective of the one who needs “to be needed,” it yet speaks volumes regarding the independent attitude of our culture today.
It is not weakness to need others. It is not vanity to seek. There exists for those who seek and those who recognize their need a God who is not merely willing to respond, but rather, He has already responded and He waits on us.
Allow me to caution those of you who are more “literal minded”: it would be unwise to enter our churches and workplaces carrying sticky rollers so we might “sticky roll” those offending persons who live unkempt and offending lives! Granted, it would be both enjoyable and funny, but I can guarantee it would not be well received!
Rolling a cat is workable and even fun. If we want to roll a person, we have to start with ourselves!
New Year’s Resolutions
Well, Christmas is now officially over. Some of you are trying to decide whether or not those decorations on the outside of the house really need to be taken down or if you will just rationalize keeping them there gives you a head start on next Christmas!
Most of us are not overly concerned about Dickens’ “ghosts of Christmases past”—instead some of us must deal with the “waist and hips of this past Christmas!” That’s right sports fans! The really cool rack on which you hang your shirts and place those laundry baskets actually has another use: the dictionary refers to it as “a treadmill.” Scientific study and observation indicates those who use a treadmill for its intended purpose will actually reduce those ever-growing waists and hips received during this past holiday season!
New Year’s resolutions invariably require a certain amount of self-discipline. In fact, the word “resolution” comes from the same Latin base as “resolute”—“resolute” means, “having or characterized by determination.” We easily understand this in our culture today. Those who are resolute in their convictions, those who are not easily moved about by circumstances, are characterized by our society as being firm, strong, or negatively, stubborn; it really depends on who is doing the analysis.
Yet there is something more here. The Latin root also communicates something much more precise. The root resolvere has the meaning “to loosen up” since it has at its root the word solvere where we get our English word “solvent.” In other words, to be truly resolute we must be able to grasp the difference between what we need to loosen and what must remain unmoved.
So how do we make these choices—what to keep and what to lose? It is not wise for us to trust either our feelings or our culture either. In some cultures it was considered appropriate to love one’s neighbor, yet in others, it is perfectly fine to eat him—how one feels determines whether one’s neighbors is either well-loved or well done!
There are accepted norms stretching across all cultures and societies. While there are individuals psychologists may refer to as “sociopaths” or “psychopaths”—those highly aggressive and violent who have no trace of guilt or empathy—no culture or society can survive under similar conditions.
All believe murder is wrong, if not evil. All cultures place a high value and importance on the marital relationship, though many do not understand the damage done to the institution and family by redefining it.
The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans contends when those “who do not have the law [a moral understanding], instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts.” Paul is here referring to what many unbelieving people refer to as morality.
If “those who do not have the Law” (those who are not in a relationship with God as Father through Christ) have a conscience, what excuse do we have, who claim a relationship with God and Christ, when we do not follow His commands? Too many Christians (and those who claim to be Christians) forget it is not those following the tenets of Buddhism, Islam, New Age or even those claiming to be atheists who give Christianity a bad name!
Those claiming to be Christians do this to themselves.
G. K. Chesterton observed, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Peter had a similar experience with Jesus. After witnessing the miracle of the fish catch when they obeyed the command of Jesus, “he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!’” If you look closely at this passage, you will see Peter’s realization occurred after he obeyed and witnessed the miracle of his obedience and Christ’s commands.
All too often, we rob ourselves of seeing Christ’s miracles in our lives; we lack certainty and resolve. We fail to believe and we fail to loosen ourselves and the hold of this world on us. David’s cry in Psalm 51 for the Lord to create a clean heart in him occurred after he felt the Spirit’s conviction of sin. It wasn’t the flu, it wasn’t an anxiety attack. David felt real, no-kidding conviction and recognized it for what it was. If we desire this same ability, we must discipline ourselves to pay attention to the Spirit when He convicts us and speaks to us about what we are thinking, doing and believing.
It may be an epiphany to realize that your laundry organizer is really a treadmill. It is even more important to be able to distinguish the conviction of sin God’s Spirit brings from any other excuse we find convenient.
So, who wants to loosen a New Year?
Hairballs in Heaven?
My wife and I do not have children: we have cats.
Actually, Frances and I are the permanent staff for our cats. As far as jobs go, this one is enjoyable. That is, if you think cleaning up the remains of something unrecognizable on the floor – left by “The Phantom Puker” – as something considered “enjoyable.” Overall, the cats sit on our lap, desire to be held when they choose, eat food we buy and prepare, and if we are particularly deserving, they will gladly allow us to collect metric tons of shed hair on our clothing, bedding and furniture.
Owning a cat is not for the faint at heart. You have to be a very self-confident and self-assured person to love a cat. Your cat will judge your worthiness like an art collector judges a fine painting. It is only after much study, observation and internal debate that an art collector will be motivated to buy a painting or sculpture.
A cat will do the same. He will look deeply into your soul. He will drink deeply from his water dish – or your cup. He will then inspect the litter boxes and determine if his toys still have any amusement left in them. Then if the positive values outweigh your personal idiosyncrasies, you will be counted as worthy to be shed upon.
It is difficult to imagine how deeply someone can love an animal with a brain the size of a meatball but with a personality encompassing the whole house. December 2011 was a difficult month. We had to put our oldest female Siamese, Lily, to sleep. Lily would have been sixteen years old in August of 2012 which is a considerable age for a cat.
Death, in any form, is never easy. We find ourselves yearning for another moment, for different circumstances or simply a desire for life to continue. Death deprives us of the one thing we seem to love and loathe with equal parts: time. Yet even with all of the difficulties of life, even with the degeneration brought on by time, we cannot ever convince ourselves death is “good.”
The hardest part of saying goodbye to a pet is the Bible makes no clear reference to where our pets go when they die. There are many lessons God has taught me as I have watched my pets die over the years. I have thought about how God has prepared a place for those who know His Son as their Lord and Savior – and by “know,” I mean a real, living, personal experience which changes your life. If you really “know” something or someone, it will change how you live. Trust me; Lily changed how we lived our lives.
In the last book of the Bible, Jesus returns to this earth on a white horse to set up His kingdom. From this, I know there are horses in God’s kingdom. God in His wisdom also allowed John to use the symbolism of animals throughout his descriptions of Christ’s kingdom. God chose to use animals as part of the sacrificial system—the innocent dying for the guilty. Paul in his letter to the Roman Christians tells us all of creation has been subjected to tribulation and difficulty because of human rebellion and sin. I believe if the animal kingdom has played such a vital part in God’s creative order, it is reasonable to believe it will also occupy a place in God’s eternal kingdom as well!
So will I see my cat in Heaven? I certainly hope so. Is this a theological stretch? You bet it is. However, I believe since God chose to maintain fellowship with man through the shed blood of “innocent” animals, this sacrifice on their part is also valued by God. God also chose to save the animal kingdom through the salvation provided by the Ark to Noah and his family. Is this “proof” I will see my cat in Heaven?
It just is a comfort to know God loves animals as much and more than we do.
Freedom to Choose
Several years ago, I was out running errands after some early morning meetings. It was about 11:30AM and I could tell that my blood sugar (I am diabetic—“glucose”) were “in the tank.” I decided to make a quick decision to eat at McDonald’s while I could still function and pass as “normal.”
I stepped into Micky Dees at about a quarter till twelve. The counter had already filled up several people deep, so I made the choice to get in line behind this rather kind-looking grandmother with a child of about five years old. My reason for choosing to get in line with her was simple – if not simplistic: my blood sugar was low and screaming to the floor. She did not look like someone who would take a long time making a decision. I thought I was safe and soon, life-giving food would be in my mouth so I could once again prove I had an IQ higher than my Pet Rock.
I was wrong—really, very, sadly, wrong.
As I stood behind “Grandma,” I heard those words no adult on some kind of schedule ever wants to hear. She bent down to “Billy” and asked, “So what do you want Grandma to get you today?”
My inner child (and every other voice in my head) began to scream an anguished “noooooo!”
She was going to give a five-year-old a choice?
I was desperately trying to cling to lucidity since I could hear my blood sugar and sanity screaming to the ground like some kind of evil dive-bomber. All I wanted was a Quarter Pounder with cheese (I would scrape off the onions, pickles, ketchup and mustard – I like mine “plain” but no time for niceties), fries, an apple pie (hey, you get the munchies when your blood sugar gets this low) and a drink. Now the Grandmother who I thought was so sweet (and decisive) is playing twenty questions with a five-year-old!
Luckily, I was able to appear calm, collected and sane on the outside, but inside I was having a major apoplectic fit. After what seemed to be an eternity, Junior made up his mind. Trying to maintain my equilibrium, I stepped to the counter as the nice lady asked me what I wanted.
Too late, Jimmy-boy!
My blood sugar was so low, I forgot what I wanted! I ended up with a Filet-O-Fish, fries, a soda, a huge headache and probably five people behind me wondering if the local Mental Hospital had early-released another one of their patients!
Our ability to make choices is a powerful and wonderful freedom. As we study Scripture, we come to understand only those who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ actually have the freedom to choose. In 1 Peter we who are a “chosen race” were also called “out of darkness into His [Christ’s] marvelous light.” We were stumbling around in the dark before Christ brought us into the light. In Ephesians Paul tells us before Jesus Christ brought us to Him we were spiritually dead; unable to make any choices because, well, dead people don’t make many choices.
If a choice is truly great, then where is its freedom? Paul wrote to the Roman Christians those who refuse to recognize God – and Paul states the evidence of God’s existence is everywhere in Creation – God removes from them the ability to “choose” Him when they are again in the presence of the Gospel message. They refuse the obvious evidence of God’s existence and then God will “deliver them over in the cravings of their hearts.” There is one thing always worse than not getting what you want: it is getting it.
Paul reveals in 2 Thessalonians there will come a time when those who have refused God’s offer of salvation – God’s offer to give people their only “real” choice – will no longer have a choice. Paul tells his readers “lawlessness is already at work” in this world, but the time will come when “the one now restraining [the Holy Spirit in believer’s lives]” will be taken “out of the way.” When this occurs, those who have refused the offer of salvation will lose their ability to choose! They “will believe what is false” because God will send “them a strong delusion.”
Spooky stuff – downright frightening actually – but all of this highlights the power and importance of the choice God gives us now. God is a God of second chances, we see this demonstrated over and again in the Bible and in life. Many people can testify to the fact they have received “second chances” and the ability to “choose again.”
The ability to choose is a great freedom. Unfortunately, we rarely recognize something as a “freedom” until it’s gone.